Portishead's Dummy was one of the most revolutionary releases of the past 10 years, introducing the term "trip-hop" into the cultural lexicon and making down-tempo, hip-hop-influenced music safe for mass consumption. Of course, pop pioneers or not, Portishead was hardly the first group to slow down the beats to lethargic tempos, excise the MC, and set the music adrift in icy ambience. It was preceded by its fellow Bristol residents in Massive Attack, whose 1991 opus Blue Lines may well have been trip-hop's ground zero. That album was partially engineered by Smith & Mighty, actually a trio composed of Rob Smith, Ray Mighty, and Peter D. Rose. A huge name in DJ circles, Smith & Mighty still hasn't been given its popular due. The release of the new Big World Small World, however, should finally focus attention on the group's music. A seamless mix of trip-hop, reggae, dub, rap, R&B, and funk, Smith & Mighty's second album may be the most enjoyable chill-out album since Massive Attack's opening salvo. Subtly orchestrated and immaculately arranged, the album has enough musicality to make its studio-born menace more vibrant than the average programmed epic. Peace Orchestra is actually a solo outing by Peter Kruder, one half of the trip-hop team Kruder & Dorfmeister. His album is far more airy than Smith & Mighty's, more in debt to jazz than Jamaican music. A headphone album in the best sense, Peace Orchestra is full of virtuoso programming, keen melodies, swirling synths, and smooth samples so carefully integrated that the album sounds almost like a live session recorded at some smoky club in the near future. That's a nice illusion for any chill-out music to project.

Advertisement