Blue Lines

blue lines

Blue Lines is the debut album by British electronica group Massive Attack, released in 1991. It is generally considered the first trip hop album, although the term was not coined until years later.

A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, ’70s soul and reggae, the album established Massive Attack as one of the most innovative British bands of the 1990s and the founder of trip hop’s Bristol Sound. The album also marked a change in electronic/dance music, ‘a shift toward a more interior, meditational sound.

The songs on Blue Lines run at ‘spliff’ tempos — from a mellow, moonwalking 90 beats per minute …down to a positively torpid 67 bpm.’ The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Pink Floyd, Public Image Ltd., Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes. Blue Lines featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of the album differed from traditional hip hop. Massive Attack approached the American-born hip hop movement from an underground British perspective, as well as incorporating live instruments into the mixes. It features the vocals of Shara Nelson and Horace Andy, along with the rapping of Tricky.

Daddy G said about the making of the album: ‘We were lazy Bristol twats. It was Neneh Cherry who kicked our arses and got us in the studio. We recorded a lot at her house, in her baby’s room. It stank for months and eventually we found a dirty nappy behind a radiator. I was still DJing, but what we were trying to do was create dance music for the head, rather than the feet. I think it’s our freshest album, we were at our strongest then.’ ‘It was soul music. But it had bold, symphonic arrangements. It featured samples of the Mahavishnu Orchestra going ‘hey, hey hey, hey.’ It had funky breaks and an emotional power that was hard to figure. It sounded anxious and lost. But there was a grandeur in the music also. People who came across the record became obsessed, spinning it endlessly.’ The track ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ has received high accolades, frequently described as one of the best songs of all time.

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