Trip-hop with her moonlit silhouette once rolled and spun onto herself. Her arms swam and weaved through the air as she pleasurably played with her surrounding sound waves of strings and horns, begging the submission of your ears. And that sadness in her eyes – a seductive sorrow, that hypnotically strung you along her melancholic vocals just long enough for the break-beats of her passion to punch you into aural ecstasy and let you undulate as an exhalation of smoke floating deep into her atmospheric rhythms. Trip-hop, with her pursed lips and dark eyes, evokes the herbal haze of Massive Attack’s entrancing “Karmacoma” and the exotic voice of Martina Topley-Bird on Tricky’s “Aftermath”. One thinks of Portishead, Smith & Mighty, Rekevin, and Sneaker Pimps filling up basements in Bristol in the 90s. However, although fiends for the indigenous sounds of trip-hop continue to celebrate newer releases from the genre’s antecedents such as Lamb’s ‘5’ or Morcheeba’s ‘Blood Like Lemonade’, the mainstream has yet to appreciate the transcending products of trip-hop.
As we progress further distant from the genre’s post acid-house ‘big bang’, trip-hop, although maintaining it’s symbiotic marriage of electronic and hip-hop, has refocused away from it’s earlier dark and eerie vibes and onto exploring the more eccentric sides of jazz, hip-hop, post-rock and deep house. We originally began to see this transition in Mr. Scruff’s 1999 album ‘Unreal’, Nightmare On Wax’s 1999 track “Les Nuits” and then later on King Kooba’s 2008 album release ‘Nufoundfunk’ – all of whose trip-hoppy pulses were each lost under the umbrella of downtempo. However, trip-hop’s search for odder sounds has evolved to produce music that now either bleeds predominantly electronic sounds like Flying Lotus’ more recent work on ‘Cosmogramma’ or accredits a higher percentage of its feel to hip-hop manifesting sound similar to instrumental hip-hop, nujazz, funk or soul. However, this slight favouring does not impair trip-hop from continuing to create music unrecognisable from the two just as it always has.
Pretty Light’s most recent 2012 release ‘We Must Go On’ is one of the more explicit products of an evolution toward a world of upbeat trip-hop. Although Pretty Lights has chosen a more classically soul hip-hop vibe, the track balances electronically altered vocals and atmospheric samples to maintain that harmonic balance between the two. Emancipator’s own 2011’s remix of “Black Lake” has pushed what was more of an electronically ambient track into the more psychedelic realm of trip-hop. DDay One’s “Burning Alone” is simply trippy and Nicolas Jaar’s rework of Ray Charles’s “I Got A Woman” fuses musical elements past, present and futuristic to create a piece of mystic production that reflects the very liquidity of original trip-hop. In the past two years Bonobo has become the epitome of contemporary trip-hop and has pushed the limits on cultivating innovative sounds from both electronic and hip-hop techniques while rooting works such as “Kiara”, “The Keeper” featuring Andreya Triana as well as “We Could Forever” deep into the defining ambiance of the trip-hop genre. Although to some these new works may seem to have more in common with completely exclusive genres, it is in their ability to create an auditory trip-topia as well as blend together new sounds and new waves to float upon that unifies them as the birth children of trip-hop.By Jessica Roberts