Back in the ancient past (2010 or so), a young, devilishly handsome DJ interviewed William Faith and asked if he had any advice for up-and-coming artists. Faith recounted the difficulty of crafting a truly original sound and suggested focusing on combining influences in hitherto unseen ways—the more disparate the inspirations, the better. After all, a smoothie can taste wholly different from its ingredients; the blending creates something new.
Trippy | Sapphira Vee (bandcamp.com)
This conversation played on repeat in my head as I dug into Trippy, the latest release from New York’s Sapphira Vee. Already known for experimenting with a variety of goth/industrial subgenres, Vee tries on trip hop for her new EP. She admits the four songs might not be “pure” trip hop, and I agree; while Vee wears the Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, and Tricky influences on her sleeve, these inspirations cling to her goth/industrial roots, forming a unique growth for her most distinctive release yet.
Four different artists join Vee—one for each song—yet the choice to use trip hop as a springboard creates a singular style despite each performer’s varying backgrounds. Cis Machina and Dogtablet both favor slower hip hop beats mixed with stringed instruments straight out of a Portishead single, while 2Bit Heroes delivers a Massive Attack-inspired synth wave and John D Norten relies on traditional bass, guitar, and strings. Yet in all cases, the mood reminds me of early 2000s goth rock or, in the case of “Tangential,” industrial. Maybe it’s the droning strings, minimalist staccato riffs blended with held guitar, or the delicate use of spooky piano that jogs my memory, but to combine this atmosphere with a more traditional trip-hop backbone results in a sound both familiar and breathtakingly fresh. In the post-punk revival of the past 5 years, any act that can reshape history in a way that inspires new possibilities with sounds that came before rather than simply rehashing them deserves recognition. Vee and all her co-conspirators on Trippy: consider yourself recognized.
The biggest lesson Vee gains from trip hop, however, is how to do more with less. Goth and industrial prefer bombastic deliveries, with melodramatic melancholy defining the former while the latter prefers explosive anger. Yet even Trippy’s cover image implies a muted efficiency: a simple picture of Vee in a hoodie subtly morphs into a mind-bending waterscape easily missed at first glance. In the same light, no screamed or crooned theatrics are on display here; Vee’s lyrics are sung half-hushed, bordering on whispers or spoken word. She mostly abandons overwrought metaphors; while some staple tropes such as “what goes around comes around” and the tried-and-true comparison to bait fishing pop up, Vee spends most of her time musing on personal issues rather than aiming for some wide, universal circumstance. Thus, Trippy stands as possibly her most vulnerable release: no extra flash or flair, just a woman and her friends making music they love about themselves.
Standout Track – “Blindsight”: The most obvious trip hop song on the EP, Dogtablet’s collaboration results in a short, potent jam showcasing Vee’s reserved but effective lyrics. There’s just enough left vague to allow for opposed interpretations; either Vee sings about a desperate—though terrifying—need for vulnerable openness or she uses the illusion of exposure to safely manipulate any she might fear. Leaving the song on loop results in introspection that will eat away more of your day than you might realize.