Recently some of you may have noticed my music sense has gone all trippy. You could say that's either because of my recent self-exploratory mood, when I started wondering about the nature of who I am and what's going on in my head and the like, or you could say that it's the other way around, with the music causing the change in my mood. Anyway, this chicken-and-egg debate is yet to be resolved, and I'm not in the capacity to tackle it. So I won't.
But really, what exactly is Trip Hop? The name is a bit misleading, since Trip and Hip are very distantly related (if they met at a party they'd stay at opposite ends of the building, and one would probably leave early so as to avoid meeting the other). You could almost say the former evolved from the latter in a sort of angry father, estranged son kind of way. According to our good friend Wikipedia, Hip seems to have "spawned" Trip in the same way Genghis Khan produced the majority of his descendants - while rampaging across the length and breadth of the known world, the supreme (but not very clever) Hip Hop stopped at a small village, had its way with the local music scene, and went off again. The result was Trip Hop, and it has since been quietly generating waves while Hip Hop continued on blithely, unaware of what it had created. Trip will never be popular, but then it doesn't want to be.
In the same way Hip Hop artists block out the voices in their heads by shouting loudly until they go away, Trippers politely invite the same voices in, and have long intellectual discussions with them. The result is something like a house party with all the kids who are unpopular for different reasons (Acid Jazz, Dub, Jamaican, Psychedelic Rock and Downtempo), but where they are all slightly drunk and therefore trying to behave their best.
Although some drinks are smashed and a few voices are raised, the party gradually gets going. Conversations start reluctantly, sad stories emerge, confused thoughts are exposed, awkward jokes are made and laughed at and nerdiness abounds, but suddenly something beautiful appears, without anyone knowing what it is or even noticing it, drawing us, in yet staying just out of reach.
Whether by convergent evolution or grand design, Trip Hop encroaches into the realm of Classical music, almost as if the only difference between the house party full of unpopular kids and a gala buffet hosted by Bruce Wayne is the lack of pretentiousness and musical inbreeding among the Trippers. While the Classicalists stick to their pre-industrial age instruments (and to be fair to them, they do it very well), Trippers boldly go wherever they so choose, whether it be a well-trodden path (sampling others' music), outer space (electronica) or the untamed wilderness (sampling sounds from nature). The result is sometimes confusing, occasionally hit-and-miss, but every so often, just plain excellent.