Category Archives: Trip-hop

Björk – Homogenic

I was in the car listening to this album today and thinking about how absolutely incredible it is. I would without a doubt have to say this is one of my top 5 favourite albums of all time. Björk is one of my favourite artists ever, and books could be written on her genius, her music, and her career (in fact there are several! This is one I’ve been dying to get, the first real book that is focused on the music itself:  Björk) But for now I choose to focus on the brilliance and musical experience that is Homogenic.

Homogenic is  Björk’s fourth studio album, released in September 1997. The album marked a change in her music’s style, a more trip-hop/electronica sound with acoustic stringed instruments. Before we even begin to talk about the album, we must talk about the album cover:  themes of the album are reflected in the album cover designed by Alexander McQueen. Björk had approached McQueen explaining to him the person who wrote Homogenic‘s songs was someone who “had to become a warrior. A warrior who had to fight not with weapons, but with love. I had 10 kilos of hair on my head, and special contact lenses and a manicure that prevented me from eating with my fingers, and gaffer tape around my waist and high clogs so I couldn’t walk easily”. Grant Scott says, “It’s an amazing composition: every element balances; every line leads where it should, all framing an enigmatic face, staring into your eyes through artificially-wide pupils”, about the cover taken by photographer Nick Knight. I have seen Homogenic‘s cover praised highly in many photo magazine articles as well, and is always high on any list of “best album covers”.

Now on to the music! The music of Homogenic is simply cosmic. From start to finish the album is a work of genius. The beats are raw, the sound worlds created by Björk are – to quote the album’s “Jóga” – ’emotional landscapes’ that could only come from Iceland, and only from  Björk. “Jóga”, the second track on the album, is one of my favourite, and one of 5 singles to come from the album. Written with Icelandic poet Sjón, because  Björk wanted to have “epic” lyrics – and this is without doubt achieved. The song is so emotional, so entrancing. I must share a video of PS22 chorus singing this:

I cried when I first saw this. Firstly, there needs to be more music educators like this man. These kids are feeling this song, and singing it with emotions which I never thought possible in children of their ages. The most amazing part is some of their faces as they sing, and how the song can inspire then to feel such musical passion.

“Bachelorette” is without doubt my favourite song on the album, and one of my absolute favourite songs of all time. Sometimes I listen to it over and over. The lyrics are simply incredible. Just an amazing piece of poetry. The heavy beat throughout the song is something that moves me. It is hypnotic. I can’t help but drift away into another world of music ecstasy when I listen. I can’t even put into words how much I love this song. And the video is another brilliant piece of art. Funny story: when listening to this one evening with a bunch of friends, a good friend and I both envisioned this music playing behind the orgy seen of the Penthouse movie Caligula. (X-rated so I won’t post a vid!) but for those who are curious, hunt down a clip of that scene and play this song with it. It’s uncanny.

“Alarm Call”, the album’s 8th track, contains one of my favourite stanzas in all music lyric history: “I want to go on a mountain-top /With a radio and good batteries/And play a joyous tune and/Free the human race/From suffering”. Something about that just speaks truth. The song of course is amazing and it has another amazing video. The remix for the video is different from the video, and I prefer the original on the album, but they are both great!

Now you cannot talk about his album, or  Björk’s videos and not mention “All is Full of Love”. The song is ambient bliss. It completely envelops you. The electronic sounds and flow are painfully sensual. The video is one of the greatest videos of all time. As a piece of art it is on permanent display in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Incredible. The video is just as sensual as the song. This is a video that everyone must watch at least once in their lives. The remix for the video is for me much preferred to the album’s, the one remix I wish had been on the album instead! I once watched this video at least ten times with my good friend Monique, overwhelmed by it’s pure sensuality.

Homogenic has been hailed as critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine calls it “if not the greatest electronic album of all time, it’s certainly the greatest of its decade”.


Sneaker Pimps

Sneaker Pimps were a British trip-hop band formed in 1994. There first album, Becoming X, is a trip-hop classic. By far there most popular single (and my personal favourite) is “Six Underground”. It is definitely one of my favourite trip-hop tracks and would be on any trip-hop mix I make. I really like Kelli Dayton’s vocals on the album, which is why I was so sad when she was asked to leave the band after this album. Only recently have I listened to their other two albums: Splinter, and Bloodsport, and while the music is still great I really can’t get into the vocals. I think this is in part because it is a male vocal, which I find very rarely works in trip-hop.

Another one of my favourite tracks from the album is “How Do”, which I just learned is a cover of “Willow’s Song” from the original Wicker Man movie (a great movie! And I thought that song sounded terribly familiar!). Apparently the band took their name from an article the Beastie Boys published in their Grand Royal magazine about a man they hired to track down classic sneakers.


Jem

Jem is a Welsh singer-songwriter whose first album, Finally Woken, had a lot of amazing songs in the trip-hop genre. A friend of mine bought the album when it first came out and we listened to it for the first time together. I remember immediately loving it. I recently rediscovered Jem and was just asking if she had ever released a second album, which I just discovered she had in 2008. “They”, and “Come On Closer” are definitely my two favourite tracks on the album. I also love “Just A Ride” which I had totally forgotten was a Jem song until I released to the album only a couple of days ago.

I also forgot how diverse Finally Woken is. The first several tracks are darker, more electronic/trip-hop, but as the album progresses we get more acoustical sounding/”folktronica”. I just listened to her second album, Down to Earth, for the first time the other night. I need to give it another listen for sure, but it had some great tracks. Nothing compares to the singles from the first album though. It seemed much lighter, although there were some tracks which were more like her earlier style.

A lot of Jem’s music has been in all sorts of media, which is why some of the songs I had forgotten were hers until relistening to the albums. Her music has been featured on numerous T.V.  show such as Damages, The O.C., Desperate Housewives, Wonderfalls, 90210, Six Feet Under, Crossing Jordan, Grey’s Anatomy, Medium, and “Wish I” was used as the theme tune to the ITV show, Celebrity Love Island. According to her website: Jem is working on a new album that is supposed to be released the summer of this year (and it already being August this weekend, should be soon!) Fun fact: Jem (along with Guy Sigsworth) wrote the song “Nothing Fails” which was eventually reworked for Madonna’s American Life album! (Madonna is my all time, absolute, hands-down, favourite artist of all time!!!)


Esthero

I first discovered Esthero some time ago now, and her first album Breath From Another is a favourite of mine and one of those I always keep in my car. But just recently I finally got around to getting her second album, Wikked Lil’ Grrrls. She has only had these two albums thus far – the first being released in 1998 and the latter in 2005, but she is working on a third which should be released soon (if it hasn’t all ready; I haven’t seen it yet).

Despite having only two albums in the past decade, Esthero has had many collaborations with other artists, including DJ Krush, Black Eyed Peas, Left Eye, Timbaland, Kanye West, and Nelly Furtado to name a few. I really really love her first album. In an interview Esthero stated that she was not too fond of the album, but it has definitely become a trip-hop classic (and you know how much I loooove trip-hop!). I can’t even say which songs I like best because I like them all so much! I love her voice on this album and the trip-hop vibe is just incredibly chill. The songs are all so incredibly well done.

Having now listened to her second album I did not enjoy it nearly as much, although it was still really good. I will definitely have to give it another listen in the near future. It definitely had some great tracks but there is nothing like my love affair with Breath of Another. Check out her website for more info about her music and newest projects: Esthero


Lamb

One of my all time favourite genres of music is trip-hop, and one of my favourite bands in that genre is Lamb. The duo is made up of producer Andy Barlow and singer-songwriter Lou Rhodes. Their music is mostly trip-hop, particularly the Bristol brand of the genre, but they also use many elements of jazz, dub, and drum and bass. The duo has had 4 albums to date, and I am most familiar with the compilation Best Kept Secrets.

One of their most famous tracks is “Górecki”, which is inspired by Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which is an absolutely amazing symphony. It is heart-wrenchingly sorrowful and Polish so you know I love it! Their song ” Górecki” starts off with simple beats and a beautiful melody, and about a third of the way through the beat really picks up and it is an incredible moment.  “Gabriel” is another of their big singles, and it is one of my all time favourite trip-hop songs. The way the music builds is incredible, the lyrics are beautiful, and the sounds completely captivate me.

“Angelica” is definitely one of my favourite Lamb tracks. It uses part of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” and you know how much I love the fusion of electronica and classical!  I could go on and on about so many of their tracks so definitely check them out! Lamb


Émilie Simon

Émilie Simon is a trip-hop/electronic artist from France. I first ran into her single “Fleur de Saison” from her second album Végétal and immediately loved her! Her self titled debut album was released in 2004 and went on to be a big success. Simon toured and appeared on TV shows all over France promoting the album. Simon wanted to orient her second album towards a more wintry or polar setting, and she proceeded to record sounds which relate to coldness such as the sounds of smashing ice and footsteps in the snow. Coincidentally, in the midst of her search for sounds for the album, she was contacted by producer Luc Jacquet to compose the original soundtrack for his documentary film La Marche de l’empereur (March of the Penguins in English), concerning the migration of emperor penguins during their annual migration (which I loved! Morgan Freeman is the best narrator!)

The album of hers I am most familiar with is Végétal, released in 2006. The album definitely has more rock elements but is still heavily electronic. “Fleur de Saison” and “Opium” are definitely my favourite tracks on it. The first is an energetic song which is absolutely one of my all time favourite French singles, and “Opium” is incredibly haunting. I believe she uses prepared piano for the track which is pretty badass.

She seems to have a thing for flowers, as in most of her videos she is surrounded by/part of a flower and many of her lyrics (particularly on Végétal) relate to flowers. AND her compilation is called The Flower Book. Check out her site: Emilie Simon


Yoav

Yoav is a singer-songwriter of Israeli-Romanian descent who was raised in South Africa.  Since Yoav’s critically acclaimed debut album, Charmed and Strange (2008) he has had many sold-out headline shows in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. While on a North American tour with Tori Amos saw Yoav sold almost 9,000 discs off stage in just 3 months. He’s had a #1 song in Russia, where he also received a special RAMP award (Rock Alternative Music Prize) in recognition of his achievements. After only one radio session in Denmark Charmed and Strange climbed to number one on that country’s iTunes album chart within 24 hours.

The music of Charmed and Strange is very chill, and could even fall into the category of trip-hop. Some of my favourtie tracks are “Club Thing”, “Beautiful Lie”, and “”Yeah, The End” – the latter two being singles of the album. Many of the tracks feature him on the acoustic guitar, which he uses to mimic a lot of electronic dance sounds and they are wonderfully blended with electronic elements as well. It’s a really neat effect that I definitely haven’t seen too much before. Check out the site: Yoav


The Gotan Project

I absolutely love tango music, I find it amazingly sexy, and trip-hop is probably my favourite genre ever, so when the two are fused together as perfectly as done by The Gotan Project, I am in ecstasy. Based in Paris, the project consists of Phillipe Cohen Solal (from France), Eduardo Makaroff (Argentina), and Christoph H. Müller (Switzerland). The band formed in 1999 and their first album, Le Revancha de Tango is still one of my favourites (although I am not terribly familiar with the latest few). The music is a brilliant synthesis of traditional tango elements with elements of samples, beats, and breaks. It has a chill vibe all the while something about it just seethes sensuality. Many of the vocals have that early-radio/vinyl kind of quality, giving it a haunting sound that brings me into a dark world of smoke-filled tango halls in Buenos Aires. There are amazing moments of bandoneón, piano, and strings throughout the album, and there are remixes and sampling of many beautiful traditional tangos, all with an incredible trip-hop life to them. Santa María (del Buen Ayre) is among my favourite tracks on the album. Be sure to check out their website and other albums!

The Gotan Project