sat 15/05/2021

CD: A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S | reviews, news & interviews

CD: A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S

CD: A/T/O/S - A/T/O/S

Can Belgians resurrect a much-maligned British style?

A/T/O/S - Belgian bass

Trip-hop is much maligned as a genre, and understandably so. One of the worst names for a style this side of “folktronica”, it rapidly came to mean anything downtempo that wasn't a standard indie rock format – including plenty of the blandest music ever made.

Trip-hop is much maligned as a genre, and understandably so. One of the worst names for a style this side of “folktronica”, it rapidly came to mean anything downtempo that wasn't a standard indie rock format – including plenty of the blandest music ever made. As the late Nineties drew on, it and other experimental electronica faded together into the even vaguer audio Prozac of the “chillout” section, all holiday show sound-beds and CDs on supermarket checkout displays for stressed shoppers to impulse-buy as their children pestered them for sweets.

Think back, though, to the glories of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead's debuts, to some of the strange grooves that the Ninja Tune and Mo' Wax labels rolled out, even to the psychedelic cartoon world of Moloko: for a short while it really felt like Britain might just be developing its very own kind of soul music. But it's from Belgium that that duo A/T/O/S (it stands for “a taste of struggle”) tap back into that and recreate what it could have been.

Signed to dubstep pioneer Mala's label, they are full of all the strange sonic drama and low-end oomph that genre has developed over the past decade – but really its hip hop swing and warm soul singing are pure mid-Nineties. It is delivered, though, with such utter conviction and intensity, with subtly socially conscious lyrics and emotional force to the beats, that there's nothing retro about it, more a sense that this is where the style could have ended up if it hadn't become so washed-out and diffuse. Sometimes the song structures aren't as strong as the sonics and voice, but just as often they are – and this is an album that will get under your skin and into your life.

Overleaf: watch the video for "What I Need"

Its hip hop swing and warm soul singing are pure mid-Nineties

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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