I was fourteen when Massive Attack’s Mezzanine was released, and like many, I bought it at first sight—for that album cover—despite not yet knowing what trip hop was. At that point in my life, I would typically go to my local Tower Records after school to try to find hiphop records I didn’t already have—it wasn’t usually a fruitful task. Even though the genre was fully ubiquitous by that point, mainstream outlets still did pretty terribly to hide their implicit (or explicit) bias against the genre. (And no need to pretend race and class weren’t a big part of that.) Similarly, despite being a huge store with plenty of room for experimentation, Tower wasn’t actively featuring many import records either. But I’m super thankful to whoever the Tower employee was who decided Mezzanine was a worthy record to put on a display rack — I doubt I’d have noticed it otherwise. Because of that discovery (and learning about the existence of Fat Beats a few weeks later), my tastes took a sharp left turn and my life was changed.
This song by Swedes boerd and Boko Yout (Bård Ericson and Paul Adamah, respectively) is an unambiguous callback to the records of that era. I’m certainly not alone in recognizing trip hop’s quiet return to relevance, but I suspect I’m also not the only one who righteously continued listening to the genre throughout its colder years. It seems to me a sign of being well-adjusted to periodically make room for listening to the milestone records of one’s youth, if for no other reason than to put one’s teen angst in some perspective—and maybe to recognize where a more critical ear would have been deserved in the first instance.
Boko Yout’s vocals here—particularly in the verses—can’t avoid some comparison to Daddy G’s gravely timbre, but boerd’s production doesn’t strike my ears as particularly close to the lineage of the genre’s more ubiquitous torchbearers, like Massive Attack or Portishead. Consistent with much of his earlier work, boerd’s beat is markedly less ominous or grim compared to those acts. It’s lighter; and that’s not a bad thing. The drums and use of scratching evoke something closer to the open breakbeat style of a Nightmares on Wax record. The walking bassline feels more like Morcheeba. And the pop sensibility of the songwriting and its key feels almost like something Sneaker Pimps would have written. These are all references to be plenty proud of too—trip hop wasn’t all utter darkness, it had its hopeful moments too.
Unfortunately for all you iPod revivalists, this isn’t on bandcamp (yet), so for now you’ll need an LTE signal to stream this on your commute.
boerd & Boko Yout – All My Life (sc)