Publication Date: 2022-11-17
"Trip-hop" was a label cast upon music that, in the early 1990s, sounded from the boundaries of dub, hip-hop, electronic, jazz, soul, psychedelia. Acoustically arresting albums like Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and Protection; Portishead’s Dummy; Tricky’s Maxinquaye; DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… — these, and scores of records on labels like Mo’ Wax and Ninja Tune, seemed to speak to a sense of collective alienation and disenchantment, with the end of the century in sight. But the ‘trip-hop’ label was loathed by most of the musicians and producers; and by the early 2000s, receding into a bland ignominy of soundtracks and commercial imitation, the scene seemed to have exhausted itself.
The music went on, just like it had come before. This short book seeks to dislocate "trip-hop" and instead understand this music within wider and more interesting aesthetic traditions. Traditions in which qualities of beauty, intimacy, and nostalgia sit alongside complexity, virtuosity, and furious experimentation. It places this strange, spacious, avant garde sound alongside musics of exile, loss, and the Black diaspora. Like the music, this book will both offer solace and challenge. It will ask questions about who gets to define genres, and what — and who — do such genres exclude. And it will ask, as a listener, how do you untrain your ears and escape complicity from the commercial imperatives of labels and algorithms?