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What is Trip-Hop?

Updated on June 25, 2016



I Want You to Trip Like I Do

Trip-Hop is the true opposite of the Pop genre. Trip hop originated in the United Kingdom and became trendy during the mid-nineties. If you think you've never heard a trip-hop song before I can guarantee that you absolutely have but didn't know it. Let's take a time machine and go back. Let's go back to the early 1990s until the early 2000s when trip-hop was all around you but you may not have known it.

The usage of Trip-Hop music throughout the media reaches from almost every episode of the CSI franchise, to commercial ads, and even to movies. The black comedy Fight Club is an example because the entire score was composed by the trip-hop duo The Dust Brothers now known as The Chemical Brothers.

The unique sound of trip-hop employs the usage of jazz instruments and melancholy themes mixed with the world of keyboards to create break beat rhythms. The sound of a trip-hop artist is very laid back "Somersault" by Zero 7 comes to mind when I think of a laid back trip-hop song. But there are times when trip-hop can me upbeat and catchy "Trip Like I Do" by The Crystal Method is one source for upbeat trip-hop music while Soulstice's "Fall Into You" is another. Sometimes this genre can be very haunting an example is Zero 7's mix of Radiohead's "Climbing Up The Walls" or Sia's "I Go To Sleep".

The Test - The Chemical Brothers

The Test - Chemical Brothers
The Test - Chemical Brothers

MTV Subterranean

MTV used to have a show that aired on MTV2 called Subterranean. That's where a lot of trip-hop was featured. They played music videos that didn't make it to main stream early morning videos, hence it's name Subterranean. It aired form 2003 until 2011.

Artists included:

  • Massive Attack
  • Tricky
  • Zero 7
  • Thievery Corporation
  • Sneaker Pimps
  • Gorillaz
  • Moorcheeba
  • Rob Dougan
  • Radiohead
  • The Crystal Method
  • The Chemical Brothers / The Dust Brothers
  • Portishead
  • Pretty Lights
  • RJD2
  • Hooverphonic
  • Dido

Pretty Lights at Red Rocks

Trip-hop Across the Pond

Tricky's "Excess" is a song that's been used numerous times throughout the entertainment media it even served as the theme song for the short-lived television series "Glory Days". This song was also used during the films "13 Ghosts" and "Queen of the Damned".

Trip-hop has slowly crept into the American consciousness. Many times a trip-hop song is used as transitional background music. If a character is doing important computer work or doing important lab tests trip-hop and split-screen montages are used to make the scene more entertaining.

If you want a closer listen into the trip-hop field a few staples of this underground musical base include Zero 7, Massive Attack, Morcheeba, Portishead, The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, Tricky, Thievery Corporation, Sia Furler and Gorillaz.

The Bristol Sound

Trip-hop or The Bristol Sound as it's also known as has been used in the backdrop of many tv shows and movies. The movie Hackers is a prime example of a movie that dives right into the trip-hop experience.

Let's think back to 1995, if you were alive you may remember when Hacker's came out in theaters. A crime techno-thriller film that features well, hackers. The very first song in the movie as the credits are rolling is Orbital's Halcyon On & On which you would also recognize from the Mortal Kombat movie.

Massive Attack's Protection could be heard during Kate's played by Angelina Jolie party.

During the climax of the movie, The Prodigy's Voodoo People lent to the urgency and excitement of how the heroes were going to defeat the DaVinci Virus and the Plague.

Another example of trip-hop in modern media is Fight Club. At the time they were known as The Dust Brothers but later changed their name to the Chemical Brothers. The soundtrack for Fight Club was composed by the Dust Brothers.

The Chemical Brothers - The Test

Becoming X

The entire Becoming X can give any trip-hop fan life! This album came out in 1996 at the height of trip-hop's popularity. It was also the Sneaker Pimp's debut album. Roswell was another example of trip-hop featured in mainstream media. The theme song was a trip-hop artist, Dido. So it would make sense that the show would feature trip-hop songs. A song from the Sneaker Pimps, '6 Underground', they also featured 'Trip Like I Do' by the Chemical Brothers, and the very important and creepy scene when Max is verified as King by the Emissary during Radiohead's 'How to Disappear Completely'. They also used Tricky's 'Evolution Revolution Love' in the episode "Who Died and Made You King?". They also featured Zero 7's Destiny in the show's final season.

Plenty of fans were pretty upset when the dvds were released with new music. So unless you were recording the show on blank vhs tapes religiously you won't have the original music the show had when it first aired.

1999 not only gave us Roswell, but it also gave us The Matrix. One of the most recognizable musical scenes from the movie is Rob Dougan's 'Clubbed to Death'. It won't be for another seven years that Dougan would release his album Furious Angels.

Spin, Spin Sugar

Other Genres and the Future of Trip-hop

There are other genre's that are similar to trip-hop but not quite the same, the difference in melody, tone and usage of instruments keeps these genres from being classified as trip-hop. There's dream-pop, post-britpop and neo-psychedelia. Ivy, The Doves and Ambulance LTD are examples of groups that aren't quite trip-hop but these groups have music that trip-hop fans can get on board with. Sadly The Doves are on hiatus and Ambulance LTD is no longer making any new music. Groove Armada used to be considered trip-hop but recently they've become more of an electronica group the same way Daft Punk is not considered trip-hop.

Trip-hop has never been mainstream so it's hard to tell the direction it will go in. Tricky and Massive Attack have teamed up again to release new music. Zero 7 has moved on to new projects for the moment.

In April 2016 remaining members of Sneaker Pimps Liam Howe and Chris Corner confirmed that the Sneaker Pimps would release a 4th album eleven years after the group has produced any new music. Gorillaz has also announced in April 2016 that they're going to release a new album next year.

Radiohead, on the other hand, just released a new album called A Moon Shaped Pool they're a group that's been able to stay active and evolve with time.

Zero 7 gave us the gifts of Sia and Sophie Barker.

Sia had been performing with Zero 7 while creating her own solo career since 1999. Destiny was released in August of 2001 on Zero 7's Simple Things soundtrack. The next album When It Falls, Sia sung on 5 of the 12 tracks. When It Falls is the last album Sia performed on before actively pursuing her own solo career. Her last solo album, This is Acting, was released earlier this year.

Massive Attack in Concert
Massive Attack in Concert


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