The Phantom Tollbooth
 
Cultural Shift 
Artist: Trip 
Label: Alliance Music (UK)/N*Soul (US) 
Length: 56:55 minutes/10 Tracks 
Not to be confused with the amazing US-based bassist of the same name, this Trip is a drum'n'bass outift which is a part of New Generation Ministries, home of dba and Hydro. This isn't the first time a UK, or even NGM, outfit has had a name mix-up - recently britpop outift Bleach have had to change their name to Steve as a result of the US outfit of the same name. There are plenty more examples, but I digress...

This first drum'n'bass release on a Christian label comes in the wake of the huge success of Roni Size and Reprazent's "New Forms," which introduced the mainstream to drum'n'bass as an up and coming musical sub-genre.

The album opens with laidback keyboards, sounds which aren't quite what I'd describe as 'washes' (as they have more attack), but are getting that way as they fade out. The beat comes in strong, and is nicely programmed with just the right level of complexity to make it more interesting than standard techno.  Vocals come in later: airy, reverb-laden vocals which meld well with the keyboards and give the whole thing an ambient feel. The lyrics are not overtly Christian, and there aren't many of them, but with this genre vocals are mostly used for effect anyway.

The first track is the longest on the album, clocking in at 6 minutes 28 seconds (most of the songs are over the five minutes mark). Sometimes when I listen to the album this seems excessively long, but it depends what sort of mood I'm in.  If I want to relax while listening it helps me detach from things.

The introduction to the next track suffers a bit from sounding like the theme music to a music program on the BBC called "The Ozone," but after this the track continues in a similar vein to its predecessor, but with some stronger beats in places. The album does have a flow to it which is not unusual in the genre - the songs don't all flow into each other, but they do all tend to follow naturally.

The bass sounds used sound a little too synthetic to me, and would certainly benefit from more organic production. This detracts from things where the bass is prominent. The vocalist, Tanya Farthing, however, is excellent - her voice is ideally suited to the music.

The album continues in a fairly ambient (but not as in the style of dance music) mode for a while, gradually building up in energy--and becoming easier to dance to. "Wildfire" is the most aggressive track, but apart from the  vocals even this is not particularly aggressive.

As an ambient journey through drum'n'bass this is a good album, definitely one to unwind to rather than dance to. I would like to hear more live bass on future albums, and perhaps a bit more diversity, but I'm sure a few tracks would do well if released into some clubs.

By James Stewart

You hear it on late night radio programs, you hear it in between songs on the radio, you hear it in commercials, and it's spreading faster than a juicy rumor.. I'm talking about jungle/drum and bass. This genre of the dance scene is one of the fastest growing styles of music in the secular market. It's invaded the UK, and is slowly taking on the U.S.A. But one thing it's not doing is flooding the Christian market, so when a full length album comes out, it's a big step. Most people are ska-loyal, and hardcore  listeners, and when the term "dance music" is mentioned, they think of radio house and cheesy sirens. But this is jungle, not house.

Jungle is the "rude boy" music from the U.K. It started in the underground rave scene, and draws it's influence from jazz, raggae, and hip-hop. It is mainly a scene, rather than a genre. Its artists try their best to keep it underground, which is why most people aren't too familiar with it. Most artists would rather keep it real than sell out for a cut of the profit.

But what does it sound like? Just imagine somebody speeding up a jazz drum track, mixing that with a dark distorted bass line, and then overlaying that with a dark, smooth chord progression on the synth.... Then you are playing in the jungle. It is basically techno jazz for the next generation and the antitype of house music.

This group from the UK is comprised of Andy Hunter and Martin King, and they know what they are doing. This album has everything from intelligent drum and bass (reminiscent of LTJ Bukem's "Logical Progression") to dark jungle (typical of any jungle room in the West Coast) to a song that uses a real stand up bass (like Roni Size). And even though the styles are similar to others, the sound isn't, and they deserve props for originality.

Along with the musical depth, there is a vocal display of talent. Tanya Farthing does some guest vocals, and has a very soothing voice, but that is only showcased for a short time. Instrumental stuff seems to be Trip's forte.

The first half of the album features the softer songs.  They're more of a drum and bass section of Cultural Shift. The melodies are more light hearted and the rythyms are not as intense as the second half. But once the second part of the album gets going, the pace and intensity of Cultural Shift increase dramatically.  This half of the album is darker and more textured. The melodies are eerie and are mixed well with the rhythms for a good balance.

I found the track "Dark Storm" to be the best track on the album. It starts out with a simple 4/4 beat and then goes crazy.  The distorted yelling and dark bass create a frenzy for the dance floor, and showcases a sound that made jungle famous. The sped up drum tracks feel at home when coupled with a synth. It's a good combination, like milk and cereal, or Moses and Aaron.

Trip has excellent keyboard skills and they use them quite often. Their attention spent on melody is what made a good album a great album. The light synths with the dark bass produce a bittersweet sound that is catching, and not too repetitive.

There are one or two tracks that were so-so, but none that are bad. At times, you may think a  track is going soft, but a listen all the way through will show you that you are wrong. They are so progressive that what you hear at the beginning isn't what you get at the end.

This album was first brought to my attention over a year ago in a newsletter/catalogue, but it was never released here.  Instead, it was released in the UK.  The songs were are all copyrighted in 1997, but that doesn't mean the tracks are dated. In fact, Cultural Shift is as caught up with the rest of the market as it could be. Anyone interested in something different, but exciting to the ear should get this album. Take my advice, take a Trip.

Justin W. Jones (7/13/99)