Thursday, March 03, 2016

Just Don’t Call it Trip Hop

Jeff Wragg:
 PhD candidate, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Reconciling the Bristol sound style with the trip hop genre

Trip hop music emerged in the early 1990s, however, as a label the term ‘trip hop’ has always been problematic. Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky, the artists frequently credited with creating trip hop, have unanimously rejected the label, claiming their music has nothing to do with trip hop. Despite the artists’ objections, music industrialists, fans and academics continually label their music trip hop or its alternate term ‘Bristol sound’, though specifics are never given as to what, if anything, distinguishes the two terms. This article seeks to mediate the discussion between opposing viewpoints by describing the Bristol sound as a style that relates to the trip hop genre. Following the introduction, the second section discusses the controversy surrounding the term ‘trip hop’ and suggests possible reasons behind the artists’ rejection of the label. The third section addresses the terms ‘genre’ and ‘style’ and outlines their similar points of reference while also highlighting their different areas of inquiry. The final section analyses several trip hop songs and identifies common elements that relate to the trip hop genre, before identifying explicit differences that distinguish the Bristol sound style. The analysis of style focuses on the spectral quality of the works and draws from Smalley’s (1997) theory of spectromorphology.

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