Jon Kennedy

Call it trip hop if you like; there's no denying the stoned appeal of its laid-back beats and hazy melodies. Emotionally, however, Kennedy's personal touch places his music in a sublime world all of its own.

artist:
Jon Kennedy

country of origin:
UK

style(s):
Trip hop, instrumental hip hop, downtempo breaks

decades active:
2000's

essential releases:

  • Just Waiting For You Now (2001, Tru Thoughts)
  • Take My Drum To England (2003, Grand Central)
  • Useless Wooden Toys (2005, Grand Central)

Reviewed by Mike G

The prodigiously talented British artist Jon Kennedy belongs to a family of instrumental hip-hop/trip-hop/breaks artists that includes Quantic, Bonobo and a number of artists who occupy the downtempo tip of respected and influential UK breakbeat label Ninja Tune. Kennedy is DJ but he is also a musician - a drummer in fact - and this is where his music's uniqueness begins. Like Bonobo, instead of just plundering the recordings of others he samples and loops his own playing to construct these his tracks, sometimes roping in various side players on guitar, piano and sundry other instruments.

His first three albums remain outstanding examples of the form. They're mostly instrumental downtempo affairs infused the melodic warmth of jazz, soul and pop, some tasty funk riffs and basslines and a sprinkling of TV and radio samples. Although often playful, Kennedy can be epic, too: the closing "Waiting For The Sea To Freeze" from Take My Drum To England (2003) brilliantly builds layer upon layer of reverberating, shimmering sounds over a slow, hypnotic break before it slowly spirals out of your consciousness.

Call it trip hop music if you like; there's no denying the stoned appeal of its laid-back beats and hazy melodies. Emotionally, however, Kennedy's personal touch places his music in a sublime world all of its own. Fans may also want to check out his later albums 14 (2008) and Corporeal (2013), both of which sit more in the genres of vocal soul and hip hop and are not reviewed here.

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