“We Fell To Earth” – ‘We Fell To Earth’
I’ve got to write this review!
Suddenly I remembered that I had something to do on Friday. And, yes, I’ve probably got more important things to go on doing…
… But I’ll pull myself away from all those other trivial pursuits and get straight into it. I said last review, sometime last week that I thought I was losing my “spark” for finding decent albums. And I think it’s true, this week’s review mightn’t live up to the traditional standards; because, today-of-all-days, I’ve decided to tackle trip-hop, this quiet, seemingly unnoticed-genre that machinates in the shadows of the music scene, pulling perhaps more strings than one. “We Fell To Earth” is a bizarre combination of minimalism meets ‘Massive Attack’, although the qualities between artist and album are distant at best.
This is, to date, the first and foremost trip-hop orientated album that I’ve even contemplated reviewing. I’ve always been put-off by the added “-hop” at the end of “trip”, and thus, avoided it for obvious reasons [my loathing of R&B, Rap and other offside affiliates like hip-hop]. And now, I suspect, I’ve lost a few readers. But nevertheless, I will pursue with my review. Because I wasn’t completely sure about this genre, I was hesitant to go ahead with it in the first place. When I approached my counterpart for a reasonable definition, I was met with a reasonable answer:
“… So, what the hell is it?” I would ask
“… It’s sort of like… simple rhythms and tunes, that kind-a stuff, all together;” he would reply
“… Like minimalism?”
So I finally had something to go on. I’d found another interesting genre. If you look at “We Fell To Earth” from an alternative-, or even a rock-, perspective, you’ll fall short on it’s uncanny repetition and length, whereas if you fall back on electronica or shoegaze, you get caught up in acou. samples that repeat alongside lyrics and solos. It goes beyond the realm of trance or techno, to the otherworldly side of music where strangeness reigns supreme. It doesn’t have the qualities I’ve begun to admire in experimental or even psychedelica because it simply does what it is and what it was supposed to do: be.
“… You should look up ‘Massive Attack,’ Michael Hodder said one day.
“… ‘Massive Attack’,” I wrote on my hand.
“Yeah, check out ‘Teardrop’, it’s the backing-track for ‘House’, except they’ve cropped the part they wanted,” interrupted Collins.
“‘Teardrop’, got it…” I wrote on my hand.
“I’ll have large fries and an extra coke,” another blabbed…
“… Large fries, extra – hey!”
And so it began. Fans of ‘Massive Attack’ mightn’t find similarity between this and tracks like ‘Teardrop’, for the simple reason that I felt ‘MA’ had these very overdrawn, very simplistic songs that oozed on forever, whereas our friends ‘WFTE’ were using backing samples and lyrics in the same way, minus the ooze. I don’t know what constitutes ‘ooze’, ‘MA’ just has this time-stopping feel to them where ‘WFTE’ lacks it a little. So, I was getting that much closer to a firm definition of trip-hop. It’s still hard to explain in a single sentence. If new-music-lovers can imagine a song with a simplistic sample, like the pick of a guitar, or the beat of a drum, electronic or otherwise, then that’s the base of the cake, to begin with. Then, comes the cream/jam in the middle, that’s the lyrics, or the vocals, or the solo-instrument that leads you along. The real icing, however, is where a crescendo builds, or where a solo breaks out, to differentiate itself from the simplistic sample. Hence, I suppose, the naming of the genre: tri-p-hop, as in, “tri” meaning three…
… Yes, I just pulled that one out of a random hat, but it worked, didn’t it.
“Hail your new messiah!” An Evangelical priest commands.
[they bow towards the hat]
… Why is it always the hat? Now that the genre has been shoved into a corner, it’s being tamed with electrocution through various shock-treatment therapies. The ongoing battle is with the music itself, which struggles in the arms of morphine, tangled in a mess of acid and amphetamine binges previous. From prior-listening, I wasn’t all too flat-on-my-back – to be honest, the songs were dark, they were slow, they were long, and they were everywhere. The album lacked definition, the album lacked confidence, and for a debut, it’s opening and closing tracks were somewhat withdrawn and unsophisticated.
But my new trip-hop appreciation has rendered me in a state of self-disagree-ment. Those are the good points, believe it or not: when it concerns trip-hop – I believe – these are the deciding factors for a successful album that revolves around this double-edged-sword-of-a-genre. I’m totally and utterly surprised that a band such as it is, exists. It will be extremely fortunate if any of mainstream picks them up. JJJ over here in Australia might have a crack at it, but the major-music-league is a bit narrow-minded when it comes to smash-hits and money-making, which might be difficult for tracks like “Spin This Town”. For a debut, it is surprisingly sleek; by that, I mean it transforms the reality it bends into a noir unseen for the past decade, very slyly. I found this noir-bending in albums like “Artefacts For Space Travel”, or “205”, but it’s hard to find because it’s not something that every body’s looking for. Everybody has their own musical-tastes, I hunt for the obscure – if I can find it…
“We Fell To Earth” opens with the beating of a very ethnic-drum. It’s like an eastern-timpani, and after dutiful listening, it’s infectious, distinctive, and original. I’ve never really looked at definition from this perspective before, but trip-hop” is like using metaphor in a very descriptive written-passage, it’s the underlay, the hidden meaning, that you as the reader, or in this case, the listener, have to decipher for yourselves. When the vocals/lyrics kick in, they’re very solemn, they’re very distant, and almost robotic. With emphasis on the phrase “… spin this town…”, the track’s title is overall successful, and as the song itself develops, more instruments come to layer themselves upon the ethnic-timpani, like the wave of psychedelic synth, or the space-age flick every so often that just makes things perfect. The whine of the guitar sounds like an electric wail that just creeps into your soul.
And just as you’ve been spun, we’re thrust unexpectedly into “Lights Out”. And it’s basically using the same equation as previous, with difference:
Base layer + Vocals/Lyrics + Difference = trip-hop Song
When I first listened to the album the full-way through, I was a little dazed by this repetition, and it was this that drove my initial dislike. After a solid play-through I can appreciate the song’s qualities, but I have a tendency to stick with my somewhat arrogant cover-judgements, so the album is refreshing with a recurrent bitter aftertaste. I did, however, manage to come across a keeper:
“The Double” epitomises trip-hop style music. It is the cleanest, it is the simplest, it is the most effective track on the entire album. It is emphatic, it is infectious, it is everything, it is nothing, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. When that tickle of guitar explodes into full listening-pleasure, you’ll be squirming in your seat for more. But it’s the same, over and over and over again, and it buries itself deep. Again, those vocals/lyrics burst in, and although they’re not the sole driving force behind the track, its these second and third layers that help influence this primary layer into an epic+. When it shifts, it’s like biting into chocolate, when it grows, it’s like starring at an American Redwood, when it falls, it’s the deepest abyss, and when it finishes, it is the final aria on the final stage. Such a great song, placed elegantly between all these other fine examples, and it is the saviour, this little five-minute track, that says it all…
… And when I come to rating it, I’m torn between the left and the right, the better or the worse, the beginning-hate or the end-love. For such a situation, most people would draw a line in the sand and make it fifty-fifty, but 2.5-outta-5 is far too harsh for this soon-to-be-under-loved album, and 5 is just too generous. 3 isn’t a number I really like, but 3.5 will have to do. It’s as close as I can come to a final answer, and don’t even start me on purchase-value…
The Enantiomorphic God