One of the most common—and to this author, most recent—misconceptions about trip-hop is its origin. Formed in the early 1990s in Bristol (Mixmag coined the term itself in 1994), trip-hop became part of the British beat culture along with IDM, chill out, and jungle, as technological advancements played a larger role in the transformation of how music is created and consumed.
Writer Laurent Fintoni wrote in his book Bedroom Beats & B-sides: Instrumental Hip Hop & Electronic Music at the Turn of the Century that this experimentation drove most of these instrumental movements in the 1990s but started to wane in the early aughts. “At the same time, mainstream hip-hop production was enjoying a particularly exciting phase,” he said, citing the “sudden influx of electronic-sounding beats with a distinct American hip-hop fluency”—notably in the works of The Neptunes and Timbaland, among others.
On his latest EP titled Radical, Filipino DJ-producer Bass Relief consciously drew inspiration from his influences to helm what he described as his own trip-hop album. Whereas Portishead’s Geoff Barrow distanced himself (and even publicly recoiled on the use of the term, especially relating to their music) from trip-hop, Bass Relief openly embraced it.
In an exclusive interview, he told HipHopDX Asia that he made at least 200 songs in the last two years. “Different styles and sounds, depending on his mood on any given day,” he said in Tagalog. When he decided to work on a new record in May this year, he wasn’t satisfied with the songs he was initially planning on putting out. “It felt thin and lacking. They were club and hype tracks, but I felt they didn’t fit the times. I can’t play or perform them live since the live music industry is essentially ‘closed,’ so I thought of changing direction,” he wrote.
He also weighed heavily on releasing the EP in the pandemic. “On the negative side, I feel like new music these days aren’t as experienced fully, and they cool down easily. It needs to be blared out on speakers, and people need to dance to it. On the flip side, as artists, we have more time to improve on our craft, to study and learn a new skill.”
Steering away from what he described as “current music trends,” Bass Relief said he looked to the past for inspiration: early rave scene of the mid-‘90s to 2000s, breakbeats, drum and bass, dub, and downtempo. He cited the music of DJ Honda, DJ Shadow, Fatboy Slim, RJD2, Chinese Man, Gold Panda, The Neptunes, and fellow Filipino DJ-producer Arbie Won as his sonic mood board for the project.
After turning in two versions, he still felt the sound was lacking and thought of adding a “real bass sound,” which he got using a bass guitar he borrowed from a friend. The analog addition added grit to the sound, and finally, he was satisfied. “You should be happy with your art before anyone else. Be a fan of your own work,” he told us.
Known for sampling local artists in his music, Bass Relief also expressed a desire to become better in scratching, which he incorporated into Radical for the first time. He reached out to Cebu-based scratch DJs Dyha and DJ Short, as well as Batangas-based Bigboi and Fuwowoy to jump on his lead single and EP intro, “Seasons of Orion.”
“They’re gods when it comes to scratching and battling,” he fawned. “I reached out to them on Facebook and Instagram and hoped for the best. They agreed, and I sent them the track, which they liked. In just two weeks, they sent back the clean scratch tracks, mixed and mastered just in time for promotions.”
When it comes to the overall theme of Radical, Bass Relief likened the concept to a heist movie, imagining how each part would sound like. “Seasons of Orion” is structured after a band setup, giving the scratch solos their own moment to shine. “The guitar riff is a sample from one of my favorite tracks by the Master Rapper [Francis Magalona].” He also shared with us the themes of each song.
“Into The City” is heavily sampled with “Manila,” a track by Filipino band Sandwich, which he describes “as if a war is being waged in the city.” The third track, “Vibe Check,” is based on a concept video he made this year, which gives off a car chase feel. He added kulintang elements on the studio version, similar to the live performance version.
“Childlike” is his calmest track in the EP, he said, which gives off a folksy vibe via old Filipino song samples. The fifth track, “Jump the Gun,” was directly inspired by an RDJ2 song. “I sampled more than eight songs and chants to make this song, the most prominent of which was from a local band with fruits in their name,” he said. The track also shows off his scratch skills using a single vinyl and recorded in one take.
On closing track “The Floor is Lavander,” Bass Relief said he recreated a bass line by his favorite song from Typecast. “I chose this as the ender because of its dynamics, as if the protagonist is dying at the end of the film.”
Stream Radical via Locked Down Entertainmen below: