That’s the first image that comes to my mind whenever I hear the term “trip-hop” – a warren of rabbits on acid. Of all the ridiculous musical genre names, this has got to be the silliest. It is also unfair to the music itself. With a name like that, you (at least I did) expect something perhaps trivial but what you hear is something deeply layered, sometimes brooding even disturbing, at other times ethereal and in my experience of it, very engaging. Of course, that opinion could be highly skewed because I’ve chosen to be extremely picky and very limited with music that has been associated with this genre.
Truth be told, I had not heard this kind of music for quite a long while but a post by John that featured Massive Attack’s “Man Next Door” on his excellent blog had me reaching out for my Portishead and Morcheeba records (took me a while to find them, buried deep in the mix as they were). And yes, I added Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” to my collection. A few listens later, I was asking myself why I had never got around to getting myself this album before, as of course, I’ve done with countless other albums and artistes. This and Portishead’s “Dummy” – at the very, very least – should be on the list of some of the finest albums made in contemporary Western music.
Massive Attack was one of the earliest purveyors of the form with their superb debut “Blue Lines” and reaching, in my opinion, a musical peak on their third album “Mezzanine”. Hypnotic drum and bass, eerie electronica, guitars now purring, then growling are the hallmark of this exceptional set of songs.
Massive Attack set it up for bands like Portishead (incidentally both bands are from Bristol) who took this form of music to an even wider audience. Geoff Barrow’s ominous sounding production, Adrian Utley’s beautiful guitar work and the ethereal, stunningly emotive vocals of Beth Gibbons on such brilliant albums as Dummy, Portishead and Third continue to enthrall me even after countless listens.
Morcheeba was not quite as experimental as Massive Attack or Portishead but they kept the genre going and interesting just at a time when it looked like it would fade away. The band’s music always had a strong streak of soul in Skye Edwards’ wonderful vocals. The Godfrey brothers gave it an edginess with their sometimes quirky but always sharp electronic work.
Grab hold of at least “Mezzanine” and “Dummy”, put the music on, switch of the lights, listen. You will feel and act like an acid bunny.