The “Bristol Sound” or “trip hop” as branded by the media, conjures sensory associations of smoked sounds, dark scents and heavy thumping beats. The unique sound evolved in Bristol, one of UK’s most racially diverse cities, in the 1980s and 90s when the genre developed.

Bristol Sounds – presented by Sam Downie, is a popular Factual Entertainment Music Documentary Radio and Podcast series, that documents the people, the music, and “the sounds” of Bristol, England.

This popular show first made its debut in early 2001, and continues today be it archived online (listen to the podcasts below) , radio shows and DJ sets.

Bristol Sounds

Bristol Sounds is supported by and was broadcast on :

There’s even more episodes to listen to, on Mixcloud.

Read About The Background to Bristol Sounds
Bristol Sounds – Broadcast Background on Radio & Podcasts
The Story Of The Bristol Sounds
Read About The Background to Bristol Sounds

Bristol Sounds is a Audio project that’s part of a collection of online media projects developed by The Watershed in Bristol, as part of the Electric Pavilion – “An online collection from 2005 that presents Bristol’s artistic talent in, amongst other things, music, photography, illustration and fine art.”

Electric Pavilion was divided into five virtual ‘rooms’ – urban, tranquil, campus, commercial and roots – each offering a different perspective on Bristol, a multi-faceted city. It was created through a combination of mixed and new media commissions and research into key Bristol cultural venues.

Many of the exhibits look back on the wealth of Bristol’s recent cultural history – for example, The Dug Out, a legendary music club in the 1970s and 80s and a key influence in the development of the ‘Bristol Sound’. Others, such as Mr_Hopkinson’s Online Interactive Video Sample Orchestra, looked at new ways of engaging audiences with digital technology.

Bristol Sounds – Broadcast Background on Radio & Podcasts

Bristol Sounds went under different names – first it was called “Straight Outa Bristol” to accompany the Phil Johnson book of the same name, an audio version of the book if you will, and as part of the Electric Pavilion at Watershed in Bristol. Once the radio version came about, the show renamed to Bristol Sounds. The podcast version used both these names, so that it could be searchable via The Watershed and the Electric Pavilion.

At first, the short radio shows were broadcast on both community radio (BCFM, Ujima Radio and Radio Salaam Shalom), and then made it’s way on to National Radio on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music as a 6Mix, as well as edited episodes on BBC Radio Bristol.

Then the episodes were archived as a Podcast series, on Mixcloud and Podomatic – online from 2004 and listed on iTunes where for a while it beat popular presenter Chris Moyles.

The Story Of The Bristol Sounds

In the early 1980s local band “The Pop Group” were featured on the cover of the hugely popular NME magazine (the New Musical Express) before their debut album “Y” had even been released. “Y” included a sophisticated mix of funk music, dub, punk and free jazz creating a refreshing new sound and an early sign of the new genre. The group was short lived, and its members went on to form new groups, among them “Rip-Rig + Panic”, featuring a young Neneh Cherry.

‘Wild Bunch’ a collective of musicians and DJ’s, began throwing parties in the Bristol neighbourhood of St. Pauls in 1983. The parties were influenced by the Jamaican ‘soundsystem’ culture, where party music was played in public spaces, usually in economically deprived urban areas. Their sound mixed different black music and subculture influences including hip hop, reggae, funk, rap and R&B but at a slower pace using ambient electronic influence which developed into trip hop. This group eventually became the central musical collective that defined trip-hop. Three Wild Bunch members were Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Andew Vowles and Tricky, who in 1987 formed “Massive Attack”.

In 1991, having collaborated with Neneh Cherry on her debut album “Raw like Sushi”, Massive Attack released their first album “Blue Lines”. Blue Lines is considered a masterpiece and the first official trip-hop album. The album featured prominent vocalists including reggae stars Horace Andy and Willie Wee as well as Tricky. The track “Unfinished Sympathy”, with vocals by Shara Nelson, another musician who was part of the St. Paul’s party scene, continues to be considered one of the best musical tracks to ever be produced.

After the release of Blue Lines, and the growing number of quality musicians with their origins in the Wild Bunch, it was evident that something significant was happening. In 1995 Portishead released their debut album “Dummy” which won the Mercury Music Prize and Massive Attack their second album “Protection”, Tricky released his debut album “Maxinquaye” in 1995.  All three albums were huge successes, critically and with audiences and brought the “Bristol Sound” to international recognition.

The graduates of the Wild Bunch crew continued to have huge success with Reprazent, the drum and bass act formed by Roni Size, who also took part in that scene. They released their first album “New Forms” in 1997, which took home the Mercury Music Prize that year, putting drum & bass in the mainstream spotlight.

These musicians and their visionary mix of Caribbean beats, hip-hop, funk and a slow electronic pace, have defined the importance of their city as a major influence on the British, and international, musical scene.

Now, in 2019, Bristol Sounds is being rebuilt as a Podcast series and made available again, via different platforms (and audio players), as an archive of what it achieved from it’s foundations as a short radio show in 2000.

Bristol Sounds, almost 20 years in the making !

Enjoy the music and interviews – and DO SHARE ! if you want more please do get in touch. Stay Tuned for more additional Bristol Sounds to be added, with new shows, DJ sets and Broadcasts on radio.