The Valence Project – The Valence Project

The Valence Project was created in an attempt to revitalize trip hop music and bring it into a new era of creativity. Combining acoustic and electronic sounds, the collective strives to create trip hop that is more artistic and emotionally charged. The result is a mixed bag that succeeds at times and falls short on occasion.

Drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia, best known for his work with Guns ‘N Roses and Primus, teamed with producer Cookie Marenco to lay the foundation for the album. They then brought in 12 musicians to experiment and lend their own vision to the tracks. Most of the songs are able to rise above the normally sterile feel of the genre. The Arabian-sounding “G’Nib G’Nub,” featuring a funky bassline by Jonathan Herrera, stands out for its exotic flavor. A number of songs, however, never rise above background ambiance. The pointless remake of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” replaces any trace of the blues with the most generic of trip hop beats and ambivalent spoken vocals by Deborah Charles.

The Valence Project is at its best when featuring vocalist Melissa Reese. “In This Life” is a heartfelt soul ballad containing more visceral intensity than the rest of the album combined. Another instance of transcendence takes place in “No Way,” the album’s catchiest track. Sparse horns abruptly charge an upbeat dance groove as Reese sings that “you never miss the water ‘til your well runs dry; you’re always tired of living ‘til it’s time to die.” In “No Way,” the Valence Project accomplishes its goal, rising above the stale beats and uninspired musicianship of trip hop to take the music to a new level. It’s a shame that several other songs fail to reach that standard.

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