Yasmin, Emeli Sandé and Maverick Sabre are taking a trip back into trip-hop

Tricky's unlikely collaboration with Beyoncé was just the start, as Morcheeba and co set the production tone for 2011

When Beyoncé headlined Glastonbury earlier this summer, the biggest surprise wasn't that she managed to pull it off – in spite of the grumbling prophecies of a certain doomy demographic of it's-not-real-music bores – it was that, contrary to rumours of Kanye or Jay-Z or even her former Destiny's Child colleagues, she used up her guest star quota on Tricky, the Bristolian trip-hop pioneer who's sounded like he's needed a drink of water for the past 25 years. Despite the presence of Bey's gleaming, ever-pro smile, it was clear that this pairing didn't quite work, since Tricky looked like he'd only popped out for a scratchie and a Chomp and was shocked to find himself trying to sing gyrating 2003 chart hit Baby Boy to 50,000 people. But even though the performance didn't come together, it did prove one thing: that Beyoncé Knowles remains right up to speed with what's going on in pop music.

Trip-hop, the signature sound of the 90s' stoned south-west, is the noise of 2011. Its smoky beats and dramatic strings are being draped all over the year's emerging stars. Yasmin's On My Own and Finish Line are standouts of the new trip-pop scene, putting a glossy sheen on uplifting strings reminiscent of Massive Attack's Blue Lines. Another Scottish singer, Emeli Sandé, seems to have settled on this sound for debut single Heaven, currently perched alongside Adele and Katy Perry on the Radio 1 A-list. To show just how ubiquitous trip-pop is about to be, Sande has channelled more of the same into a successful songwriting stint on Leona Lewis's forthcoming third album.

Other trip-hop set texts influencing the charts include Tricky's Maxinquaye and Portishead's Dummy. Maverick Sabre's Let Me Go uses the same Isaac Hayes sample that Portishead pinched for Glory Box, in a similarly spooky way too, and a bunch of slow gloomy stylings help put Sabre's soulful bad-boy Plan B shtick on a slightly darker path.

It shouldn't be a surprise that a genre once considered dead should re-emerge. There is a long-established 20-year rule on such matters – and it's 20 years last April since Blue Lines was first released. The fact that it's trip-hop is mainly unexpected because its memory was bludgeoned into an unholy late-90s mess of Kosheen and Morcheeba, turning the genre's innovations into "chillout" music for the sort of dinner parties where discussion centred on what to do with that Jerusalem artichoke in your weekly organic veg box. Having gone so far towards such grimness, it's not just a surprise that it's back; it's a surprise that it's turned into offbeat, exciting pop.

Still, things move quickly, and there's always time for it to go wrong again. Here's Amy Lee, of straining goth-poppers Evanescence, on the hot new sound of their third album: "I have always loved Portishead, Massive Attack, those electro things." Sneaker Pimps revival, anyone?


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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