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Radar Reviews: Reed Blue – ‘Shadow Trip’

A lot of today’s youth devour the more commercial side of pop and rock music with the simple touch of a button nowadays, with global heavyweights like Adele and Harry Styles gaining billions of streams. Long gone, does it often feel, since the days where parents would bang on their teenage children’s bedroom door while said teenager blasts out some very distinctive music at a full blast volume as the parent asks “What the heck are you listening to” with their heads peeking into the room. If you want to get a resurgence of those times where mainstream music was not largely aimed at such a young demographic and the teenagers vied for some edgy new sounds instead, Reed Blue – an experimental boom bap musician from the Ticino region of Switzerland’s Italian community who creates some 90’s East Coast Hip Hop-inspired ambient music, may be the man for the job. He has just released a remaster of his masterwork ‘Shadow Trip’ that tightens the original track and distills it to its core ethos.

Reed Blue’s music career can be traced back to the 90’s, where his brother, a DJ, exposed him to music from outside of their native corner of Switzerland. He built up his passions for ambient and hip-hop music through his sibling and he subsequently claimed a front seat seat to the emergence of the area’s Techno and Post-Hardcore music scenes. Like the artist, ‘Shadow Trip’ has trekked a long journey to arrive to it’s finished form of today. Originally composed in London on the cusp of the new millennium and never released fully before, Reed Blue was later driven by an urge to rework it to reflect a more modern sentimentality and he feels we are now in a suitable time for it.

He says the message of ‘Shadow Trip’ is “Do Not Distract Me“, adding that it is “a powerful message for a world going towards chaos and confusion“, in the words of the artist who initially found himself playing with other bands, including his time working at a local Reggae club. He elaborates by adding, “We don’t have to be distracted. We need to stay focused and not give in to fear“, in his elusive press release. Reed Blue has certainly built intrigue for the track, which fits how he has built his career on the idea of mystery. In order to reflect this theme, his single experiments with the re-purposing of electronic sounds in an old-fashioned hip hop context. Largely ambient and featuring abstract vocals, the single guides you through a euphoric and meditative state. The single ebbs and flows neatly in the screwed-up sampling of its vocals, with chopping and changing techniques that are kept grounded by the hypnotic bass line throughout.

The most striking thing about the single is the opening, where Reed Blue lays a wonky pastiche of a Post 70’s Funk beat that feels very ‘Midnite Vultures’ era Beck – a highly underrated album from the 90’s, I might add – in terms of the colorful style that gives it a ‘Slacker’ and ‘Stoner’ mentality. It develops with brief Trumpet solo’s that create a smoky Jazz element that is reminiscent of Pan Amsterdam’s cigarette-burning enigmatic production style. The warped vocals mix briefly Soulful stretches of vocals with a dark texture that makes it sound deliberately like a broken record, giving the cut a candid feel.

Strange brass samples and a very glitchy drum beat add to the soundscape, while a slight Trip Hop feel to the dressing of the beat is a nice nod to DJ Shadow and his ‘Endtroducing’ era of his music career. As a result, Reed Blue sounds like his creativity is coming from a wide range of surroundings and he channels these passions into his own unique craft. The lack of vocals and the highly experimental style may not deem it to be for everyone, but it’s definitely down with the 90’s kids or the teenagers who are begging for alternative options nowadays to the typical landfill that may be given to them. Very charming.

Words by Jacob Braybrooke

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