posted 2017-08-12, 08:28:34
updated 2017-08-12, 08:28:34
What's good friends, today we're going to look at a handful of trip-Hop/downtempo albums. Trip-hop is kind of blend of electronic and hip-hop, yet entirely unique in its own right, not borrowing too strongly from either root. Typically trip-hop is very laid back, although as you'll hear in some of these albums, it can also be rather discordant/experimental at times. The selection of albums here I believe provides a pretty broad look at the spectrum of trip-hop, along the axes of hip-hop/electronic and experimental/tame.
For those who've been following me for a long time, you'll recall the old trip-hop post I wrote up with Lawrell a little over 4 years ago, which had a couple recommendations from the both of us. Eventually I plan to get all that old content up on this new blog, reuploaded and rewritten, but for now I'm focusing on new content with the limited time I have. The albums in that post were:
- Bonobo - Dial 'M' for Monkey
- Dirtwire - s/t
- Morcheeba - Big Calm
- Massive Attack - Heligoland
- Bonobo - Black Sands
So if you're hungering for more after going through the below albums, these are also worth checking out!
Now, onto the albums; we've got a lot to get through this time around.
Morcheeba - Big Calm & Head Up High
While I did say that I wasn't going to reupload the albums from the old post here, Big Calm stands today as one of my all-time favourite albums, so I felt I had to share it once again. I've already written about it once so I won't say much more, other than this is a must-listen and if you only grab one album from this post, you ought to make it Big Calm. As for Head Up High, this is decidedly a poppier and more upbeat album. It's hard to give this a fair review given the obvious comparison, but it certainly doesn't grab me in the same way that Big Calm did. I want to say it feels more accessible, but Big Calm was also very accessible without compromising the unique style it established. Head Up High trades the strings and acoustic sounds for more electronic influence, more distortion, more bass; and while I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, it's certainly a different flavour within the genre. All that said, it has some standout tracks in Call it Love, Release Me Now, and Do You Good. I think this album is a solid addition to any trip-hop playlist, even if on its own I might not listen to it alone.
Zero 7 - When It Falls
When It Falls is a simple, yet utterly groovy and relaxing album. It got slammed by critics for its lack of originality and failure to traverse any new ground, but don't let that sour you on it - it's something that I find myself seeking out specifically to hear, even on repeat for a couple hours on end. The vocals are smooth, the basslines have awesome grooves, the instrumentation is soft. All in all the album is like chewing on gum that doesn't seem to run out of flavour or get gross after a few hours, as weird of a simile as that is. This is a great album to listen to while studying or reading, as it doesn't do anything too complex or surprising, it's just pleasant and consistent. Highlights are Somersault, Passing By, and In Time.
RJD2 - Deadringer
Deadringer falls much further towards the hip-hop side of things, with a bit of a jazzy twist in some tracks, and a rap focus on others. It covers a lot of ground musically, and generally feels like a successful debut experiment from someone who's been sitting on a lot of good ideas for a long time, rather than an album built from scratch and planned around a single, central theme. While I'm generally not a fan of more 'pure' hip-hop like this - at least, that which isn't so heavily cut in with other influences (i.e jazzy hip-hop a la Nujabes, or trip-hop like the other albums in this article) that it's barely recognisable as hip-hop - Deadringer showed me a glimpse of what the genre can actually offer and I've really come around on it since. The features of Blueprint's and Jakki da Motamouth's raps in Final Frontier and F.H.H respectively feel natural, and I believe part of that comes in the lyrical content being free of the usual trappings of rap, and they're able to deliver a performance they were passionate about, without any of the obnoxious posturing. Highlights include Smoke & Mirrors, Final Frontier (feat. Blueprint), and Ghostwriter.
Emancipator - Soon It Will Be Cold Enough
Soon It Will Be Cold Enough is on the other side of the spectrum as Deadringer, in that it's (almost) fully instrumental, and with a stronger electronic foundation, with a more subtle (yet still tangible) hip-hop beat. The album produces a variety of soundscapes that evoke the frigid outdoors imagery suggested by title and artwork. The album is very relaxed and easy-listening, yet it is neither boring nor simple like When It Falls - it serves very well as both an active, concentrated listening album but also as steady background music. If you somehow needed even more of a sell on it, it was re-released by Hydeout Productions - Nujabes' record label. Highlights are hard to pick, since there's so many songs I'm very fond of, but lionheart, good knight, and anthem are among the most solid in an extremely solid album all-round.
Hooverphonic - A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular
This album is one of the foundations of trip-hop as a genre, and you can hear similarities with Massive Attack's sound, which makes sense as both bands reached initial commercial success in the late 90s and toured together. It's very much electronic, but not in the way Soon It Will Be Cold Enough Is, this album is filled with sampling and does a lot more in the way of experimenting with sounds and ideas. It's chilled out in parts, discordant in others, and overall a very diverse and interesting listen. Standout tracks are Inhaler, 2Wicky, and Someone.
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Portishead - Roseland NYC Live
Portishead is a band that I'd heard much about, but had never dived into in any great detail. It may well be that they aren't a particularly accessible band, or I was starting from the wrong place. That being said, I'd been told to give a shot to this live album, and I finally found my inroad to their music. From this list, it's most similar to A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular - in that it is diverse, experimental at times, and leaning more toward the electronic side of trip-hop. However, I feel like I 'get' this more than Hooverphonic's debut - the lapses into distortion make a lot more sense and have an ebb and flow to them, whereas ANSSS can be confusing and weird in this regard. There's some fantastic solos and vocal work on this album, with my favourite tracks being Half Day Closing, Glory Box, and Roads.
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