Trip Hop is a subgenre of electronica that first appeared in the U.K. in 1989. Its roots lie in American techno and house, but unlike those dance oriented forms of music, Trip Hop is generally a downtempo experimental breakbeat music, familiar to chill rooms and late night clubs.
The term was coined by the English press as an attempt to classify its two biggest influences, hip hop and psychedelic ambient music. Its characteristics are hip-hop styled drum samples, with distinct jazz, funk, and soul inflections. Electronica atmospherics and sensibilities are employed, and the end product is music with a slow groove that routinely topped the charts in the U.K. and became the first form of electronica to find a mainstream audience in America.
Its birthplace is generally believed to be Bristol, England. Soul II Soul's "Keep on Movin'" is often cited as the original trip-hop recording, with its sensual groove, soft scat vocals, hypnotic beats, and sinewy bass. Massive Attack's 1991 album Blue Lines is the first classic long-form recording of the genre and launched the career of electronica pioneer Tricky. Other early trip hop groups included Breakbeat Era, featuring Roni Size, and Nightmares on Wax.
The biggest trip hop act of the early 90's, also from Bristol, was Portishead, whose 1994 release Dummy became the first trip hop album to sell in big numbers in America; it set desolate, depressive vocals agains a backdrop of syncopated beats, electronic music, and atmospheric textured guitar. There are also elements of dub.
Trip Hop's greatest era spanned from about 1994-1999 which saw such acts as Morcheeba, the Sneaker Pimps, Lamb, and Wagon Christ reach audiences that extended beyond the usual club goers.
Trip Hop has also had something of a druggy image, particulary relating to marijuana and ecstasy, an outgrowth of its club roots.
Some important/influential trip hop artists/songs include:
1. Portishead: Glory Box
Portishead helped make electronica/trip hop palatable for many who had been resistant to the genres before. Dummy, their 1994 debut album, peaked at #79 on the Billboard chart in 1995, making it the most successful trip-hop release in America up to that point. They combined the slow grooves Massive Attack had explored, and combined them with a dark musical sensibility that incorporated cool jazz and soundtrack music. The draws are Adrian Utley's expressively biting guitar, Beth Gibbons' smoky vocals, and Geoff Barrow's hip-hop informed turntables. Hypnotic, alluring, and trance inducing, the album remains a milestone. In America "Sour Times" was the big single, but in England "Glory Box" hit big. John Martyn has also done an excellent version of it. Dummy was selected Album of the Year 1994 by Melody Maker, beating out some heavy competition.