Nightmares On Wax - Smoker's Delight (2LP)
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When hip hop decided to chill out it became trip hop. British DJ and composer George Evelynaka Nightmares On Wax was one of its earliest exponents of the sound and these two albums remain a testament to that sub-genre's enduring qualities despite its fall from fashion in the late 90's. Four years into their career, the second N.O.W. album appeared, the mostly instrumental Smokers Delight. It's a sunny, laid-back retro samplefest that carves a niche quite apart from the similarly pioneering but darker trip hop stylings of the time by Massive Attack and Portishead. Soul and rare groove fans will have fun spotting all the samples; the rest of us can just sink back and enjoy the languid and surreal re-assembling of drum breaks and basslines with snatches of guitar, strings, vocals and spoken word. Alongside releases by UK label Mo Wax and its star signing DJ Shadow, Smokers Delight put stoned hip hop on the map. Despite the dictates of fashion since then and heated debates about the trip hop tag, the genre today remains a wonderfully warm, creative and sometimes quirky form of ambience.