10The List 19 May-1 Jun 1995

Trip hop giants: Beth Gibbons and Geoff Barrow

What do they put in the water in Bristol? Alastair Mabbott traces the roots and examines Britain’s most fertile ground for musical cross pollination.

n the beginning was the dub . . . sound systems with names like The Wild Bunch playing parties in warehouses or any spaces they could find. all over Bristol. And now. what do we find'.’ Not only have three of the most acclaimed records of the past year Portishead‘s Dummy. Massive Attack‘s Protection and Tricky‘s Maxi/ulna)? grown out of that local scene. but the city‘s laid-back vibe has permeated throughout pop music. Not even Madonna is immune.

It‘s been like an interminany drawn-out version of the punk or Madchester explosions. but while those scenes burnt brightly and faded fast. the infiltration of the Bristol vibe into the mainstream has been much more gradual. Every step along the way it’s been hip and interesting. and after a decade still hasn't passed its sell-by date. The whole country. in fact. skinning up on its newly- purchased King Tubby compilations. seems to have been gravitating towards what a small but intensely creative community in Bristol has loved all along.

With its large West Indian population and who knows what other unquantifiable factors? Bristol supported a thriving sound system scene in the 80s. The Wild Bunch. which included Nellee Hooper. Tricky and future members of Massive Attack. were always too talented and ambitious just to spin other people‘s records. In 1987. l-looper upped sticks for London. joining forces with Jamie B in Soul ll Soul. whose rhythms. on their first album at least. were some ofthe rootsiest. most irresistible grooves to be heard on a