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Top 10 Trip-hop records of all time

April 18, 2017 Leave a comment

1. Portishead : Dummy (1995)This album is archetypal of trip-hop. Dummy is the debut album by English band Portishead, released in the UK on 22 August 1994 on Go! Beat. The album received critical acclaim, winning the 1995 Mercury Music Prize. It is often credited with popularising the trip-hop genre and is frequently cited in lists of the best albums of the 1990s. I was seventeen in 1994 and remember its release very well. Most hip-hop afficionados deemed it worthy enough of the productions that came from that time. Some of the best hip-hop albums were released in 1994 like Illmatic by Nas. A quintessential release, well worth its classic status. Building on the promise of their earlier EP, ‘Numb’, Dummy helped to cement the reputation of Bristol as the capital of trip hop, a nascent genre which was then often referred to simply as “the Bristol sound”. The cover is a still image of vocalist Beth Gibbons taken from To Kill a Dead Man—the short film that the band created—for which the self-composed soundtrack earned the band its record contract.(Check this amazing short film featuring Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow) 

For the track “Sour Times”, the album samples Lalo Schifrin’s “The Danube Incident” and Smokey Brooks’ (Henry Brooks, Otis Turner) “Spin It Jig”; for “Strangers”, Weather Report’s (Wayne Shorter) “Elegant People”; for “Wandering Star”, War’s “Magic Mountain”; for “Biscuit”, Johnnie Ray’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”; and for “Glory Box”, Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Rap II”. Sour times – Portishead

2. Tricky : Maxinquaye (1995)

Maxinquaye is the 1995 debut album by English rapper and producer Tricky. By the time he recorded the album, Tricky had grown frustrated with his limited role in the group Massive Attack and discovered vocalist Martina Topley-Bird, who he felt would offer another dimension to his lyrics. Maxinquaye was produced by Tricky with assistance from Mark Saunders, who helped him utilize dub production techniques and heavily altered samples taken from a variety of musical sources. The record’s groove-oriented and low-tempo sound incorporates elements from hip hop, soul, rock, ambient techno, reggae, and experimental music. The songs explore themes of cultural decline, dysfunctional sexual relationships, fear of intimacy, and recreational drug use. In writing them, Tricky drew on his experiences in the British drug culture and the influence of his deceased mother Maxine Quaye, after whom the album is titled. Definitly one of the highlights of the whole trip-hop movement.

All vocals were performed by Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird, except on “Pumpkin” (Tricky and Alison Goldfrapp) and “You Don’t” (Tricky and Ragga) When Maxinquaye was first released, it received widespread acclaim from critics. In a review for Mojo, Jon Savage called it a very ambitious and musically audacious work that brilliantly explored the disparities in Britain’s social structure, with Topley-Bird as the “dominant voice” articulating Tricky’s vision of uncertainty in an ever-changing world. Dele Fadele from NME said the record was unprecedented, spellbinding, and revealed something new with every listen. He found Tricky’s production innovative and his fusion of various sounds so seamless, “you can’t label the results under any existing genre”.

3. Morcheeba : Who can you trust ? (1996)

Who Can You Trust? is the first album by the band Morcheeba. It was released in 1996 on China Records. Stylistically, the album is by far the band’s most trip-hop oriented release, consisting of languid, looping grooves, using mostly Rhodes piano, electric guitar and scratching. Slower, smoother, and more soulful than Portishead and less pop-oriented than the Sneaker Pimps, Morcheeba have an alluringly dark sound that nevertheless remains accessible. As their debut, Who Can You Trust?, illustrates, the trio has a keen sense of how to make a pop melody seem dangerous and foreign by having it crawl out of the murk of creeping beats and ominous samples. Although the group lacks the visionary spark of Tricky and Portishead, and their songs aren’t as bracing as the Sneaker Pimps, Morcheeba have a distinctive, idiosyncratic sound that makes Who Can You Trust? entrancing. Although the latter half of the album tends to sound a little samey, without many beats or hooks to distinguish each song, the album remains a hauntingly atmospheric — and quite terrific — debut.


4.Kid loco : A grand love story (1997)

 

This is one the quentessential trip hop album. Marvelously chilled grooves with some outstanding cut and paste work. His loops work to perfection. Kid Loco had a real cinematic style to his early sound. A grand love story features a sample from Easy to be hard by Three dog night on their album Suitable for framing (1969), which was also used on the movie Zodiac by David Fincher. The whole album is an ode to love, and way back in 1997 that LP was highly considered as a lover’s feast 🙂 A Grand Love Story is an irresistible romp through the lighthearted, pastoral side of trip-hop by way of orchestral pop paragons like Bacharach, Gainsbourg, and Love. Songs like the single “Relaxin’ With Cherry” and “She’s My Lover” are beautiful pop songs, constructed mostly from sampled material with a few live guitar and basslines plus vocals by Prieur and the Pastels’ Katrina Mitchell. If the ’70s fixations of Air were shifted back a decade, the results would be quite close to A Grand Love Story.

A grand love story – Kid Loco

 

 

 


5.Troublemakers : Doubts & Convictions (2000)

The Troublemakers, an innovative electro-fusion outfit from Marseilles, made their mark on the international music scene in 2000 with their acclaimed début album “Doubts & Convictions.” Far from the flashy, in-your-face style of the ‘French Touch,’ the Troublemakers’ sound revolves around subtle atmospheric mixes that transport listeners into a cinematographic universe strongly coloured by 70s influences. The trio decided to pool their individual talents and collective musical passion and team up together as a group. And thus the Troublemakers were born! The threesome soon went into the studio together to begin work on a first album, but their avant-garde tracks found no takers amongst French record companies who dismissed their work as on the one hand, “lacking genius,” and on the other not being “commercially orientated enough.” Their love of jazz is especially obvious on Chez Roger, boîte Funk :

Fortunately for the Troublemakers, their sound was picked up on by the cutting-edge American label Guidance Recordings (who had produced Fred Berthet’s first project). In 2000, the trio went on to release their debut album entitled “Doubts & Convictions.” The result? A distinctive but hard to define sound partway between electro and jazz. In fact, the Troublemaker sound is a rich melting-pot of styles, each member of the group throwing in his own personal influences. Lionel brings a soul and funk sensibility to proceedings, Arnaud adds a cinematic edge and Fred takes care of honing the tracks into a smooth final mix. On Get misunderstood, the duo has sampled a classic french monolog from the movie ”Promenade du maquereau” (Stroll of the pimp) and a great monolog from ”La naissance de l’amour”. (The birth of love). Sampling at its best, this is where trip-hop truly shines and thrives : smooth grooves mixed with cinematic ambiance reminiscent of the 1970’s.

 

6. DJ Shadow : Entroducing (1996)

In 1996, DJ Shadow aka Josh Davis released the groundbreak album ”Entroducing” a milestone in sampling and hip-hop and an amazing tour de force, one of a kind, one of the greatest albums ever recorded.  DJ Shadow’s debut is a milestone in music and one that anyone interested in non-mainstream music should hear. It might just change your outlook on the possibilities that music has to offer. I will never ever stop liking this album. I know “Endtroducing…” almost by heart but it never fails to impress me. It all started when I heard “Midnight In A Perfect World” (probably my favorite Shadow track ever), which almost brought tears into my eyes. The whole album devastated me. While the contemporary technologies seem to offer an unimaginable amount of possibilities, we realize more than ever the importance of the very essential aspect of our environment : the musical culture.

Musically, samples ranges from Tangerine dream (Strastosfear) to Metallica, Bjork (Possibly maybe) David Axelrod ( Human abstract) and thanks to the author’s very unique research that included Northern Soul, Rare Grooves & Old School Funk tunes from the sixties and seventies, The quality of the breakbeats present on this masterpiece suggests an abyssal disparity between the musical backgrounds of the contemporary and the old school artists (“Endtroducing” suggests something like the ‘introduction of something from the past’, already ended – like something brought from the old times, though through a nowadays bold perspective.)

Midnight in a perfect world

 

7. Massive attack : Blue lines (1991)

Blue Lines is generally considered the first trip hop album, although the term was not widely used before circa 1994. The album was a success in the United Kingdom, reaching #13 in the albums chart but sales were limited elsewhere. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, soul and reggae. The album established Massive Attack as one of the most innovative British bands of the 1990’s and the founder of trip hop’s Bristol Sound.

Music critic Simon Reynolds stated that the album also marked a change in electronic/dance music, “a shift toward a more interior, meditational sound. The songs on Blue Lines run at ‘spliff’ tempos — from a mellow 90 beats per minute …down to a positively torpid 67 bpm. The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Billy Cobham (Stratus was sampled on Safe from harm), Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.

The collective from Bristol have featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of their albums have differed from traditional hip hop. Massive Attack approached the American-born hip hop movement from an underground British perspective and also incorporated live instruments into the mixes. They have also featured the vocals of Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn, Elisabeth Fraser (From Cocteau twins) and Sinead O’connor as well as Horace Andy, along with the rapping of Tricky Kid.

Groundbreaking in every way could define the Massive attack sound and so is their use of samples. For instance, in 1998, Mezzanine marked a major departure from the jazzy and laidback sound of the first two albums (Blue Lines and Protection), invoking the dark undercurrents which had always been present in the collective’s music. The album’s textured and deep tone relies heavily on abstract and ambient sounds, as demonstrated in the song “Angel” among others.

Similar to their previous albums, the majority of the songs consists of one or more samples, ranging from Isaac Hayes to Led Zeppelin. Massive Attack sampled the song “Tribute” from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s eponymous 1972 album, used in “Black Milk”.

Some of their most noted songs have been without choruses and have featured dramatically atmospheric dynamics, conveyed through either distorted guitar crescendos, lavish orchestral arrangements or prominent, looped/shifting basslines, underpinned by high and exacting production values, involving sometimes copious digital editing and mixing. The pace of their music has often been slower than prevalent British dance music at the time. These and other psychedelic, soundtrack-like and DJist sonic techniques, formed a much-emulated style j and to quote Robert Del Naja : ‘You know, as far we were concerned, Massive Attack music is unique…

Blue Lines

 

8. Kruder & Dorfmeister : Sessions (1998)

THE best chill-out album of all time imo. Music database All music gave the album five stars out of five, opining that “the impossibly deep beats on almost every track simply couldn’t have been recorded by any other act” and referred to the music as “the most blissfully blunted music the world has ever heard. 17 years after its release, I still listen to it every month or so, mesmerized by its dubby soundscapes and hypnotic landscapes. What makes this a masterpiece is the perfect mix between original samples and new arrangement, especially basses and delays. I started listening to this release a few years ago, and it STILL sounds fresh when I listen today – and this doesn’t happen with many of my albums. Could this be the quintessential intelligent downbeat chill-out album of all time? You came home from the club spangly eyed and twitchin and you put on the K&D Sessions, like a reflex action, it wasn’t concious thought that did it, it was what you did, it was almost an unwritten law. And through the buzz of the Heads coming down, the rustle of rizzlas, the soupy herbal haze drifted K&D’s sumptuous serving of chilled beats and baselines. It swoops and rolls, slides and shuffles, cossets and supports then messes you up with ghostly, icy fingers tickling your very soul. Heck one of their remixes was even used in a movie with Daniel Craig. K&D are that cool

1st of tha month

9. Nightmares On Wax : Smoker’s delight (1995)

Smokers Delight is a studio album by British trip-hop producer Nightmares on Wax. It was released in 1995 on Warp Records in the UK, and on Wax Trax in the US. The album was included in Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book in 2005. In 2015, it ranked at number 15 on Facts “50 best trip-hop albums of all time” list. George Evelyn’s solo step as Nightmares on Wax, Smokers Delight, is a whole delightfully irreducible to its parts, which, as with earlier releases, is largely electro, hip-hop, and soul, with bits of Latin percussion and down-tempo funk thrown in. Nights introlude samples Quincy Jones Summer in the city (1973) also sampled by Pharcyde on Passin’ me by in 1992 :

 

 

10. Thievery Corporation : Sounds from the Thievery hi-fi (1996) / Mirror conspiracy (2000) / Cosmic game (2005)

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton met at Eighteenth Street Lounge in May 1995. They were introduced by a mutual friend and proceeded to discuss their admiration for the work of Antonio Carlos Jobim and the 60’s bossa sound. Weeks later, in a home studio, they began to work on the music that would launch Thievery Corporation. After several early 12″ singles, Thievery Corporation released Sounds From the Thievery Hi-Fi on ESL Music. That record is already considered by most to be a classic of the new electronic era. Following that album, The Mirror conspiracy (2000) is a must have album from the Thievery Corporation, similar to the first but with a few more vocals thrown in. Production is tight and the influences are far and wide. You are taken on a trip through Jamaica, France, the Middle East, Brazil, India and maybe 70’s China Town on the Pornesque Hong Kong Triad.

The Cosmic game (2005) sees the Thievery Corporation working much more with vocals, including some contributions for a few well-known voices, such as The Flaming Lips on the twinkling, spacy “Marching The Hate Machines (Into The Sun)” or Perry Farrell lending a ache to “Revolution Solution.” David Byrne brings ‘The Heart’s A Lonely Hunter” a unique vibe. But there’s also room for lesser known artists, such as the raga singer on “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” or the Latin American contingent that starts with “Ambicion Eterna” and ends with “Sol Tapado,” while “Warning Shots” bursts out with a more aggressive dub.

Essential sultry downtempo grooves from the Washington duo!

 


HONORABLE MENTIONS :

11 Air : Premiers symptômes
12. DJ Cam : Underground vibes (1995)
13. DJ Vadim : Headz ain’t ready (1995) / U.S.S.R. Repertoire ( 1996)
14. DJ Krush : Strictly Turntablized (1994)
15. Sneaker Pimps : Becoming X (1996)

 

 

TRIP-HOP MIXES TO LISTEN TO :

 

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