This longevity is due in large part to the label's commitment to cultivating bands with unique sounds of their own alongside more high-profile and commercially lucrative DJs and knob twiddlers. Some of these recruits -- such as the spectacular NYC-based Afrobeat outfit Antibalas; the multi-cultural fusionists Up, Bustle and Out; and modern visual-jazzists Cinematic Orchestra -- are the result of sharp recruiting efforts. Others have been with the label for years, quietly developing and releasing excellent music just under the radar.
One such act is 9 Lazy 9, an Italian trio that forgoes vocals in favor of a mix of moody rhythms, mournful horns, ephemeral hip-hop samples and deep dub. The band's latest release, Sweet Jones, evokes the production formula of that other trip-hop poster child, Portishead, but without Beth Gibbons' despairing vocals and heavy emotional burden. Within that dark framework is instead a range of feeling augmented by whimsical guitar melodies, ambient sounds, jazzy hi-hats, wistful synth lines and sweet flute accents, all combined with head-nodding beats. 9 Lazy 9 is what trip-hop was supposed to be: good, deep music without the pretension, music that takes you on a voyage through a dark landscape but doesn't make you want to throw yourself from a bridge when it's over.