Defining trip-hop may be as difficult a pursuit as catching abutterfly, but the styles and tonal attitudes that the trip-hop netcaptures do signify something — a lazy, stony vibe rooted inhip-hop beats but as ephemeral as ambience. East West acknowledgesthis open-endedness, and although the roughly 450 samples it'spacked into Pure Trip Hop (two CDs —audio/WAV/AIFF/REX/Acid and Akai, $49.95) do owe a nod totrip-hop's innovators — DJ Shadow, Luke Vibert, Portishead— it's taken the full creative liberty that the genre allows.In fact, Pure Trip Hop is less an emulation of existingstyles than a new window on trip-hop itself — an originaldeconstruction kit, if you will. The collection offers a series of70 fully arranged grooves, each broken down into its componentparts: keys, bass, drum groove, kick, snare, synths, and so on.It's as if producer Domino was halfway through finishing an albumin his own right, but stopped to give you first pickings of thegoods.
Whether you dig Pure Trip Hop is really the question,although the CD offers plenty of isolated sounds that you can workinto any context you like. It's an accessible kind of trip-hopsound: a bright, clear aesthetic along the lines of later MassiveAttack or Morcheeba. There are certainly collections that offermore drum beats, but it's very cool that each of the 70-plus loopshere is broken down into drum hits (snare, kick, hats). The qualityof the grooves is uniformly excellent — crunchy andcompressed, quantized with a little swing, and dry enough to leavethe plug-in or processing choices up to you. But it's the keyboardand bass sounds that really stand out: throbbing, vinylizedWurlitzer chords; arcing Mellotron sweeps; 30 gorgeous electricpiano samples; and loads of tony, acid jazz-approved electric bassriffs and lines. That's not to say that the drums aren't happening.In fact, the last few tracks of the CD pack in a whopping 75 kickhits, 50 snare hits, and 50 hi-hat samples. For a programming buff,it's pure ambrosia: MPC-2000 and SU700 users, look alive.
Pure Trip Hop provides its samples in a wide variety offormats that should cover just about all the bases except Kurzweil.(It is sad to see so many sample-CD manufacturers opting out ofthat once-common format.) Still, anyone can tap Pure TripHop's library of hip and very musical sound shards, all ofwhich are notated in the booklet with bpm and tonalityindications.
In the final analysis, the samples themselves satisfy the mostbasic criterion of a good sample: they're inspiring. From DJGrazzhoppa to Tricky to the Grassy Knoll, that's really the onlydefinition that trip-hop has ever needed.