The State of Trip-Hop

The State of Trip-Hop

So, Trip-Hop has an origin around late 80’s hip-hop along with DJs, MCs, and b-boys getting mixed up with the Jamaican dub and house scene in Bristol, UK. They mingled and formed “soundsystems” (which is a pretty dope name if you ask me). Soundsystems were created in Jamaica in the 50’s to identify a group of DJs work collectively to produce and contribute to a sole sound. With all of these influences constantly working off of each other, you can imagine the evolution of Trip-Hop has been nearly never ending. Now it has been growing to incorporate much more sampling including Jazz, hip-hop elements, and downtempo percussion which has grown as those genres have grown respectively.

Now while Trip-Hop had its inception in ’89, it hit some mainstream attention a few years later in the early to mid 90’s. One of the biggest records to start the movement and really let Britain identify with their own iteration of hip-hop was Massive Attack‘s Blue Lines. That was huge. Although there wasn’t really any element of hip-hop because it was mostly sampling, some R&B vocals from Shara Nelson and Jamaican dance hall artist Horace Andy.


Enough about the history. This post is titled “The State of Trip-Hop” after all. So let’s talk about the state of Trip-Hop and where I think it’s at.

Like a lot of things, this genre is mobilizing to the interwebz. Soundcloud has been a huge instigator in letting artists control their page (thanks, Soundcloud). This has helped mobilize the Trip-Hop industry to some degree. Of course you have to sift through the shit to find the gems hidden behind overrated and untalented promoted songs. But they are there and definitely worth digging for. On my Soundcloud, I do my best to find these gems and repost/make playlists/like their tracks. Trip-Hop is being overrun. There is literally not enough time in the day to find all the Trip-Hop being made and shared on the web. I think this is in part because to create music anymore all you need is a decent computer, very minimal knowledge of music theory and patience. Which is fucking awesome. I’m sure most of the stuff I absolutely love has been made this way. No giant soundproof studio, 100 track mixer, $1,000 mics. None of that. A 2009 Mac/PC with an old copy of Ableton and some creativity will get you to some crazy places. With great places like reddit, Twitter, Soundcloud and more, so many people have so much more of an outlet and connection with people. One of my favorite places for collaboration is because people are literally giving away vocals for others to sample in their tracks. Dope.

I think a huge reason as to why I’m getting back into Trip-Hop so much is because of how minimalistic it’s becoming. It’s devolving into vibe-able, downtempo, repetitive loops. It’s simple. I’m all about simple. It’s perfect for zoning out, driving, being productive, and just about any other atmosphere you can think of. I’m fairly particular about what I listen to and when but I can rarely find a bad time to listen to (new wave?) Trip-Hop. Maybe a funeral. That might not be an incredibly opportune time. But who knows, it might be cool. I digress. I say in my blog that I’m “always searching for vibes”. That mostly comes from the trip-hop I find on Soundcloud. I feel like although there’s so much to sift through, it’s a very niche community. It’s even similar to how I compared newer Chillwave in the fact that it can vary song by song, record by record or even artist by artist. I think that’s the case with any form of art anymore. It’s hard to get labeled down to a single genre, even if you do help with the creation of said genre (looking at you Toro Y Moi).

Keep up with me on Soundcloud. I’m always finding new stuff and creating new playlists. If any of you guys have an artist you want me to check out, please let me know. I’m always open to suggestions. That goes for my blog as well. If there’s something you want to see or have feedback, let me know!


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Hollowed by Ital Tek

Ital Tek first emerged on the scene in 2006 as a dubstep/IDM producer with a play into darker sounds. Influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin on one of his first EPs (which you should definitely check out because it’s filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger samples). Hollowed is Ital Tek’s 10th full length record and it shows his maturity through the use of darker, metallic, and almost machine-esque sounds. Hollowed takes us on a journey through an inviting and subtle soundscape that you can feel break apart as the song progresses. Organic parts combat darker, more mechanic sounds which is perfectly described in the title as A Delicate Balance. You can feel a multitude of layers through the growth of the songs that adds complexity and balance to very little dissonance. Everything seems meticulously organized so as not to interfere with competing instruments and sounds but to create a very layered but not quite unified sound while Redeemer feels like a dark choir sampled over echo-y percussion. Redeemer certainly has a heartbeat but it’s hidden under the sharp vocals that are melodically dark but bright at the same time. They bring a counterbalance to the consistent mechanical swirly synths, guitar drones and sputtering hi-hats.

Beyond Sight is a track almost needing it’s own paragraph (and it’s my blog so I gave it it’s own paragraph). This track is an outlier. While it still contains everything Hollowed is embodying, it has a bounce to it. I’m finding that a lot of these tracks are very contradictory in that Beyond Sight has a very soft synth arpeggio guiding the way, it eventually shows it’s true grit with that same synth getting a little dirty. Kinda like Trent Reznor came in and said, “you need more dirt, asshole!” And this isn’t the grit/dirt that you find in the other tracks. Those are more mechanical in nature. This is like a clean synth got hooked up with a Strat and worked together with a big fuzz pedal while the amp was peaking. This track still takes us through a journey and makes us think about how we felt when we first heard the beginning of the first track.

As we get further into the record, we see some of the IDM and dubstep come to play. Beyond Sight got us in the mood to nod more than we had in the beginning. Terminus has a sense of tension building the entire time while also being enjoyable and easily vibe-able (note: just coined the term vibe-able). That being said, Cobra just gives it to us. We get a little of that cliché dubstep lead in. Yeah, yeah. 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, we get it. Just give us the drop. He does, and it’s good. It’s full, continuously building, and gripping. What makes it better are the smooth and minimal transitions. We fall into a little kalimba party right before going back in to feel that synth drive and bounce back in again and again. Mind you, this happens not even halfway through the record. What an adventure we are on! The next few tracks give us a little more relaxation with simple samples and those swirly synths and percussive sounds we all love. There are a few awkward transitions and what feel like unfinished thoughts especially in Memory Shard. Maybe it’s to make sure we’re still paying attention?

Out of nowhere we get an almost trip-hop sound in Murmur. We get those bouncy drums and constantly crescendoing synth strings. A pulsing bass drives the song which are all the elements of a good Massive Attack or Portishead concoction. Of course we follow it to an abrupt metallic synth which is like putting Ital Tek’s signature on the song. Now, some of the work done on this record is clever and fitting but there are a few things that catch my attention more than the rest. Aquamarine is exactly that. The synth line to start is intelligent and drives the feeling of the song. Hearing Tek’s massive saws and pulsing synth lines on top of this harp-like melody feels like a climax halfway into every bar. To top it off, he adds some beautiful vocal samples that add a rich texture to the pushing and pulling of the layers of synths, percussion, and bass.

As the record continues we feel more of that dirty dirty wub. Wub? Wub. Reflection through Destruction feels like Tek gave Trent Reznor’s (wow two Trent Reznor references) How To Destroy Angels a punch in the throat. It’s big, it’s distorted, and it makes you think about how good (underground) dubstep can be. The last few tracks show Tek maturing. He gets a little spacey on us but retains a lot of that pulsing vibe we’ve gotten used to by now. Jenova is a track I could see on some Tom Cruise space movie as they leave the planet they once knew as home behind. It’s got some great chord progressions that we’re used to in popular music and it’s refreshing to hear it in an atmosphere Tek is creating. It’s dramatic in the good way.

As Vesper leads us into the final track, we hear atmospheric sounds more than anything. No mechanical, saw driven synths. We’re floating. Waiting for the finale. Vacuum I is just that. Orchestral, ominous, but pulsing. This song takes a little longer to grow than the others. It keeps the drama of Jenova but adds the Ital Tek touch of adding a little more bass. It takes a strange turn into an ambient loop of soft, airy synths that eventually falls into echo. Maybe we’ll get a sequel? Vacuum II? We’ll see in a couple of years.


Here are some links to Ital Tek’s music:

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Meseta Review & a brief history of Chillwave

So, let’s start with a bit of background. I started as a musician but slowly turned into a music lover/enthusiast. My best friend taught me how to first play the guitar back in ’08-’09. He taught me how to (incorrectly) play Seven Nation Army and apparently I can’t let go of the fact that I corrected him on how to play it to this day. Anyways, I was your typical, punk-then-grunge-then-metal-then-back to punk guitar player. I even auditioned for my High School Jazz Band by playing Fade to Black by Metallica. Cringeworthy, I know. The next year I actually learned some chord voicings, how to read a bit of sheet music and I was in. I honestly just wanted to play guitar in school but after a year fell in love with Jazz and some of the stuff I was learning. Fast forward to about 2 years later and I was looking for new music that included some sort of jazz anything.

I stumbled upon Chillwave in about 2011 and it essentially changed my life. The only real tie to Jazz Chillwave had was the consistent use of the Maj7 chord used throughout but I digress.

Now, Chillwave started in the same way Shoegaze or TripHop started. Very few artists involved and it had a very distinct sound. The big names that contributed to Chillwave include Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, and Neon Indian and it was mostly popular on the internet. Now the thing about the inception of Chillwave was that it wasn’t artist driven or even album driven. It was mostly a few songs that the artists had come up with that had a wavy, hazy, dreamy, lo-fi sound (Washed Out’s first record was literally done in his bedroom entirely).

With that being said, Chillwave was similar to Shoegaze in that within a year or so, it died. Almost entirely. There were still hints of it floating around the internet with the likes of Blackbird Blackbird, Teen Daze  (Four Years Strong), and others. Some artists (I believe) became completely mislabeled as Chillwave like XXYYXX, Tycho, and others which essentially diluted Chillwave into nothing.


Meseta is a different story. This artist came out of nowhere and currently has two tracks on Soundcloud which are dated 7 months old and 20 days old and that’s about all I know of this artist. So, I’m confused about the timing/structure/all of it but honestly I’m left wanting so much more. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Meseta’s music but damn am I glad I did. feversuit and mackscorner are both that lo-fi, crunchy, pretty goodness I found when I listened to Talamak by Toro Y Moi or Feel it all around by Washed Out. These tracks encompass just about everything that Chillwave started on and doesn’t dilute it whatsoever. As you listen with a nice pair of headphones you are surrounded by sounds of arpeggiated synths, simple drum loops, and (no pun intended) washed out vocals that makes the song feel like a wave of sound crashing down in this soft, hazy mix of summer feelings. While retaining a lot of the characteristics of the iconic starting sounds of Chillwave, Meseta keeps it refreshing and original while also nostalgic.

Here’s Meseta’s Soundcloud page, which I also linked above. Check it out and show your friends.

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My blog is already spiraling out of control because of my title. I’m sorry.

But for real.

I’ve always wanted to start a blog in which I just talk on and on and on about the music I dig. I live in Akron, USA which is a super cool place but I haven’t found a ton of people to just spill my guts to about the music I listen to.

I hope you all dig the stuff I listen to and I hope to open some eyes to some great music hidden on the internet.