I first listened to Sweet Trip when I was 19-years-old. At the time, moored to the internet by an almost laughable dearth of any social life whatsoever, I found myself in the tactile grips of Facebook and 4chan /mu/ groups — because whoever really just stumbles into that community by happenstance? Being in that situation, however, afforded me a kind of emotional economy not so easily attained by just your run-of-the-mill music and media consumer. And so, it is within this context — of a famished social life, a nonexistent love life, and little family life — that I was introduced to the humming melancholia and glitchy Valhalla of Sweet Trip’s You’ll Never Know Why (2009).
Released nearly six years after Sweet Trip dropped their seminal Velocity: Design: Comfort (2003), You Will Never Know Why found its way to me in the form of a friend’s topsters music chart. What stuck out the most to me about that album cover — sometimes judge a book by its cover — was that hint of vague agony elicited by that faint outline-sketch of the razor blade, the shameless white background evoking a kind of dilerial horror, and the name — Sweet Trip — drawn up underneath as if to delineate an almost comical, obvious dichotomy: how sweet can release really get? What ought to have been a quick overview of his taste for that particular week, proved to be a pivotal experience in my music listening from then on. I typed in s-w-e-e-t-t-r-i-p. I listened.
Of course, from then on it was all I cared about. I could not stop playing the album. Tracks like Milk, with its lulling mourning, assuring me that nothing will ever be okay in a way that I’m sure most hospice patients dream about; the dialectical nature of Acting with its ineffable sadness and mania; the whispering sorrow of No Words to Be Found — “the songs we sing are only sorrow”; moreover, there are very (very) few albums that I can abide most songs, much less every song. Sweet Trip’s You Will Never Know Why is a perennial play-all-the-way-through.
Back then, it was what I needed. It gave me that sense of emotional security lost to the invective of my life’s strange turn.
What I was not aware of at the time, however, was how expansive and beautiful their entire discography was. Or, how long they had been around.
I should note first, I am not a Sweet Trip historian. In fact, to this day, I still refuse to learn much about them. I do not know what they look like, their names, or the instruments they play. All I am (almost) sure of: Sweet Trip is the musical project of a San Francisco-based duo. Should the reader want more of a biography, I would suggest Wikipedia or their Sporitfy bio — literature I still have yet to read. A friend recently asked me if I followed them on Instagram; to which I simply answered Of Course Not. Why meet your heroes? Are not colloquial -isms cliches for a reason? Perhaps I am being paranoid? What I do know, however, is their music. How that sausage was made, I still prefer not to know — regardless of how magnificent and tempting that sausage-making process might be.
Despite my obvious mental health issues, not the least bit shrouded by the latter line of reasoning, I continued to delve further into their sonic past. I listened to their 1998 gemstone, Halica: Bliss Out v.11, constantly questioning why it was there are not swarms of people in music threads all across the internet pervasively recommending this literal audible manna — tracks like Come to Me being obvious whispers of what would be the direction of You Will Never Know Why. Of course, the astounding range and oneiric tendencies of Alura (1999) — an album I am sure the likes of Apex Twin and Photay took many a cue from. And, although it was perhaps only one song chopped — cut, remixed, refurbished — a few times, Fish Remixes & Versions (1998) could have stood on its own had the unfortunate historical circumstances that plagued The Avalanches also found a timeline with Sweet Trip.
As far as the paterfamilias of Sweet Trip’s anthology is concerned, there is little doubt that Velocity: Design: Comfort (2003) takes on that role comfortably, in fact, with a priestly authority. I cannot stress this enough: Velocity: Design: Comfort is an experience to be reckoned with. Yes, okay, it may not be as great as sex — but it sure comes close.
Even now, after most likely thousands of plays, each song on that album sings to me something I never knew could be found in this world. If I am seeming melodramatic or overdramatic, give it a listen. If something has not been altered in the way the reader perceives music, I will grant one favor — be it physical, sexual, personal — to that individual, guaranteed.
Today, Sweet Trip released a new EP/single: Walkers Beware! We Drive into the Sun/Stab-Slow. What a great day to be alive. I wish words could do justice to the album’s quality and sound — despite, admittedly, the obvious anxieties associated with any icons’ anticipated and long-overdue release. If there were to be only one comment — not even poignant enough to really be called a critique really — is there is a seemingly accelerated style of the kind found on You Will Never Know Why employed on the first track, the release’s namesake; Sweet Trip seeming to rely on their dream pop/C86 qualities with Walkers etc., while also furnishing a slight nod to Allure or Fish etc. on Stab-Slow. The only critique I have, obviously, is my elementary wish and hope Sweet Trip would release more music — but isn’t that the allure of their caliber of music?; that ability to create art that never tires with age and wear?
Walkers etc. is very much a departure from Velocity: Design: Comfort, I would say. Don’t be deterred, however. The (alleged) duo has all the while managed to retain that hydrogen and helium core that makes up the sublime, alluring star that is Sweet Trip.