In 2020, everything old is new again. Our hunger for nostalgia has burgeoned through reruns of classic TV shows, sports matchups and concerts. Artists have rediscovered abandoned styles. And in the case of trip-hop legends Kruder & Dorfmeister, the discovery of an old box of DATs (likely due to quarantine cleaning) led to the release of 1995, in the year when it would have celebrated its 25th anniversary. Shiny mastering and a new video match the set to today’s production values, but the appeal is different now, a reminder of a more innocent past.
So ~ does anyone remember trip-hop? For a brief period in the 90s, the genre ruled the electronic world. Sneaker Pimps, Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack were just a few of of the names associated with the onslaught. The loping beats and vocal sample of lead single “Johnson” plunge listeners back into an era when Bristol was surging with excitement. Smoke is mentioned a lot in the press release, but it’s not essential for enjoyment; the reference describes the conditions under which the music was conceived.
“To love, to hope, to change,” a spoken word sample delivered over calls of “Wake up!” and sirens, epitomizes an era whose themes continue to echo. But the strings and Shaft guitar of “Swallowed the Moon” best reflect trip-hop’s laid-back nature. As one track is named “Dope,” we recall that the word once referred both to marijuana and to coolness, as in “that’s dope.” (Don’t try saying that today ~ it’s no longer cool!) And it’s amusing to hear a voice proclaim “yeah, mon!” on “Don Gil Dub,” without irony given the time period.
One track doesn’t fit, and we suspect K&D know this because it only appears on the physical edition. “Stop Screaming” is built around a repeated sample from Audio Two’s “Top Billin'”, veering more into hip-hop than trip-hop: a fine line. It’s also hard to hear the track without wanting to finish the line the proper way: “Stop schemin’ and lookin’ hard, I got a great big bodyguard.”
The back end of the album returns to the groove. “Morning” sounds like a hit, while many of the others seem like candidates for another DJ-Kicks mix. And this begs the question, “Why were only 10 copies made?” In 1995, trip-hop was at the peak of popularity, and this would have been K&D’s first album (following the G-Stoned EP). Instead, they chose to go in a different direction. Or is the pot to blame? Could the duo really have worked so hard on these 15 tracks only to lose them? Whatever the reason, we’re glad to have them today: new sounds beamed from the past to help us get through the present. (Richard Allen)