This weeks anniversary album is “Blue Lines” by pioneering trip hop group Massive Attack. In just three days this incredibly influential record will turn 25.
Released in April 1991, “Blue Lines” is considered the first ever trip hop album, a genre that took shape in the city of Bristol, despite the fact the term itself was not coined until a few years later.
Trip hop grew out of the local acid house and underground club scenes, and musically speaking was by and large an experimental fusion of hip hop and electronica, with strong soul, funk, and jazz influences thrown in.
In terms of sound, aesthetically, trip hop usually combines bass-heavy drumbeats, and/or slowed breakbeat samples, tempos that move between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and melancholic R&B and jazz vocals. All of these aesthetics are on display on “Blue Lines”.
One of the unique aspects of this record is how many of the tracks are not typical songs in that they do not have choruses or verses. Instead, most of the tracks on “Blue Lines” are based largely on atmospheric dynamics conveyed through experimental arrangements, loops, and digital editing.
The pace of the songs are also not typical of the dance and electronic music seen in the late-80s and early-90s, getting down to as low as 67 beats per minute.
It was this that helped contribute to music journalists labeling their sound as trip hop, something the band hated.
“Blue Lines” certainly made a big impression on its release, reaching number 13 on the UK album chart, while becoming a big record on the club circuit.
It also established Massive Attack as one of the mot innovative groups in Britain, paving the way for other trip hop artists such as Tricky and Portishead to follow suit.
“Blue Lines” lasting legacy and reputation has not died since its release simply because of the fact it pretty much single-handedly ushered in a new genre.
Many music publications have ranked it as one of the best albums of all time, including Q Magazine who voted it the 9th best British album of all time.
Without “Blue Lines”, who knows whether trip hop would have emerged from the underground and become a globally recognised and respected genre.