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Rochester musicians are tinkering with trip-hop 

click to enlarge Phillip Coleman, a.k.a. GodClouD, at work in his home studio in Rochester. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Phillip Coleman, a.k.a. GodClouD, at work in his home studio in Rochester.
Phillip Coleman, the Rochester musician and producer known as GodclouD, stands over his digital audio workstation with a posture both casual and purposeful that says I’m working, but it’s cool.

An array of buttons and knobs on electronic devices linked to music production software on a computer are at his fingertips. His fingers ripple with the fluidity of a seasoned typist to create a drum solo that might make a prog rock drummer like the late Neil Peart proud.

“People tend to think that it’s easy,” Coleman says. “People think that it’s like I’m pushing a button and it’s all done for me already.”

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
But he’s not just pressing buttons to trigger a rhythmic loop and leaving it at that. He’s playing the drums live, albeit with a very different instrument — an MPD (Music Player Daemon) pad — rather than a conventional drum kit.

His is not necessarily the kind of music that you hear at a dance club. Instead, you might hear it at a bar or at a dinner party as background music. The ideal way to listen is through headphones. It’s chill-out music. This is trip-hop.

A genre that emerged in the ’90s with the success of bands such as Portishead and Massive Attack, trip-hop is best described as a blend of hip-hop’s rhythmic groove and the synthesizer-heavy sounds of electronic music. While trip-hop has some mainstream resonance — as it did on Lana Del Rey’s critically acclaimed 2012 album “Born to Die” — it’s largely a niche genre.

In Rochester, trip-hop’s presence is even less readily apparent. But that doesn’t mean musicians like GodclouD aren’t tinkering away trying to find a groove to transport listeners.

“I like to put people in a unique spot in their minds,” says Coleman, who regularly posts his creations on his YouTube channel. “I try to paint a really abstract, somewhat beguiling picture of sounds and sonics. I want people to feel like they’re somewhere else.”

While the beats he creates are rooted in hip-hop and dubstep, his music is otherwise borderless, moving freely between dance, funk, pop, rock, and even classical guitar. But if there is an umbrella genre for Coleman’s music, trip-hop would be it.
click to enlarge For Chris Dubuq-Penney. an engineer and producer at Wicked Squid Studios, "trip-hop" is synonymous with boundary-pushing hip-hop. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • For Chris Dubuq-Penney. an engineer and producer at Wicked Squid Studios, "trip-hop" is synonymous with boundary-pushing hip-hop.
Chris Dubuq-Penney, 27, who has worked with many local hip-hop artists as the producer and engineer specializing in the genre at Wicked Squid Studios, sees trip-hop as a signifier for experimentation.

“If trip-hop is a stand-in term for hip-hop that is pushing the boundaries instrumentally or lyrically or any of that other stuff, I think there’s plenty of people doing that in Rochester,” he says.

For Dubuq-Penney, no matter what you call it, the key component is that the music borrows from existing recordings or emulates that sort of sampling with live instruments.
click to enlarge Brendon Caroselli. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Brendon Caroselli.
That emulation is present in the music of Brendon Caroselli, whose debut solo album, “Frequency Generations,” has its live-streamed release show on Jan. 9 via Greenstream. The album was mixed by Dubuq-Penney, who also plays guitar in Caroselli’s progressive soul band Lost Wax Collective.

Caroselli admits that he leans on elements of trip-hop — the groove-based rhythms and repetitive drums and the use of synthesizers — but says he’s more likely to refer to his music simply as “electronic.”

“I don’t try to make hip-hop music or reggae music or dub music, but I love all of that music, and it has inevitably influenced what I create. There is some accuracy to it,” he says of the trip-hop label.
click to enlarge Composer-drummer Brendon Caroselli refers to his trip-hop-infused, groove-oriented music as "electronic." - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Composer-drummer Brendon Caroselli refers to his trip-hop-infused, groove-oriented music as "electronic."
The 30-year-old Pittsford native, a drummer-by-trade who got his master’s degree in classical percussion at Nazareth College and now teaches there, uses an acoustic drum kit, which he plays as if he were creating a drum loop.

“When I compose, I usually come up with short phrases and milk it as long as I can, and building atmospheres on that short repeated phrase,” he says. For his melodies, Caroselli often uses synthesizers to conjure the right sound.

And while Caroselli cites drummer Mark Giuliana and his beat-heavy, trip-hop-leaning band Beat Music as his single biggest influence, the celebrated jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal has had no less an impact on how Caroselli approaches his own music.

“He has this respect for space within his music that’s hard to find,” he says of Jamal. “It’s very unique, and he has a way of having an ear for what the whole thing sounds like. Even when it’s his solo, he’s still considering what is occurring in the whole band.”

“I try to bring that kind of tastefulness, or that consideration, to what I do,” Caroselli says.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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