Four Great Unknown Trip-Hop Tracks

Proof that that it wasn't all just about Portishead and Massive Attack (though they were obviously ace)...
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Proof that that it wasn't all just about Portishead and Massive Attack (though they were obviously ace)...

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Words by Marc Collins

After my previous Nouvelle Vague project, it was obvious for me that the next musical movement I wanted to work on  was 90s trip-hop. I was in shock when I first heard Massive Attack in 1991, and even more so when I heard the first E.P from Portishead.

It was a revolution!

This amazing sound was all coming from a city called Bristol, but eventually bands from all over the world were inspired and have followed. I wanted to do a kind of tribute album to the city and those artists, imagining these songs how they would have sounded if they were recorded in the 60s...and so my 'Bristol' project was born.

Monk and Canatella - I Can Water My Plants

A strange name for a band, no? I remember reading this name on the first E.P of Portishead; there was a track that mentioned
a tribute to Monk and Canatella. Who can these guys be?

Then I heard about them again on the Cup Of Tea compilations. So it was a band from Bristol and they were close to all the famous bands like Massive Attack and Tricky.

'I Can Water My Plants' is a great track 'cos even if it's following the trip hop sound of that time, it's very personal. Very dirty sound, loops and saturated guitars but a sweet melody sung by a ice-cool voice, which brings to the whole track a pop ambience  despite the weird structure. In my opinion they created something new, bringing white indie rock into trip hop. Something that Massive Attack would do with their masterpiece Mezannine, in '98.

Ollano - Latitudes

Ollano was actually my band... I was so inspired by the trip-hop sound I thought, "This is exactly the music I want to hear and to do."

It was in '94 that me and Xavier Jamaux had started to record our album, so a bit before the French touch movement and we had to sing in French...'Latitudes' is entirely based on a sample of Julie London's " The End Of A Love Affair", and we put a sample of Henri Mancini in the bridge. Strangely when our label asked the permission to use the Julie London sample, Capitol who has released the song, said we don't have such a song in our catalogue so do what you want !

We had to remix the track to be played on big commercial radios but finally the song can be considered as a cool hit single. Our friends from Air did a great remix.

Perry Blake - Widows by the Radio

I've chosen this song but then all the songs of Perry Blake's first albums are secret treasures. Perry is Irish but his first success happened in France. Beautiful song writing and a very low and intense voice, for me he's following the tradition of the David Sylvian/Richard Hawley/Scott Walker crooner style.

The trip hop arrangement, with slow bpm and strings are perfect for his voice ( reminds me a bit of the father of trip-hop, Isaac Hayes).  I contacted him in '98 to do a duet with Helena Noguerra, whom I was producing the album after the almost-hit -single we had with the Ollano project ( see above)

Alpha - Sometimes Later

Alpha is a band from Bristol and they were signed on Melancholik, the label of Massive Attack.

It's maybe a good example of the limits of using samples on a song. 'Sometimes Later' is based on a great sample of Lee Hazzlewood... There's a top vocal performance and some cool arrangements but the sample is making 80% of the song, I think. Okay, the guys from Alpha had the idea to sample this forgotten song of Lee Hazzlewood. but what to do if you don't have an amazing sample material ?

Like Perry Blake, it seems that Alpha only had a recognition in France. Is France the country for trip-hop artists? It certainly worked for me.

Bristol is out on the 13th April, on Kwaidan records. If trip hop is your bag, uhm, bag it. Check out the website here