Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oopsy: Archive's Londinium

Was looking through the 'B' CDs this morning and found, yep, one last 'A' CD.

Since Massive Attack's Mezzanine came out, I've written extensively about how trip hop, as a genre, had run its course. Save for aforementioned Massive Attack, a glut of trip hop had been released following the success of the various Bristol acts, and we were thus introduced to a whole new wave of coffee table music suitable for retail stores, bistros and nicer dental clinics.

Lost in that fat was Archive. Londinium, their debut, was lost to the excess. This was undeserved, because, as an album, Londinium is much more cohesive and flowing than the majority of trip hop albums, with uniformity perhaps its only fault.

Londinium works mostly because the production's just sharp enough to capture interest, but not to the point of being jarring. The group behind this are as equally skilled on their string arrangements ("Organ Song" is a great string piece)as they are on their computer programming, and thus Londonium sounds more mature than the tier two Bristol trip hop acts like Purple Penguin or the Sneaker Pimps. Unlike other trip hop outfits, Archive aren't overly dependent on their vocalists, who, despite doing a good job, don't have the signature of a Beth Gibbons or a Martine Topley Bird to make them quintessential to the product.

It's a shame, then, that Archive never mustered more attention than they did. The album stands up to much of the 'classics' of that period, and it's too bad they never got a better push from Island Records than they did.

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