Although the whole trip-hop phenomena started clear back in about 1993 with the release of Portisheads Dummy and Maxinquaye by Tricky, it hasn't caught on in popularity except for a few more watered-down versions of the genre. Although Portishead had a moderate hit with their smoky, seductive "Sour Times," it wasn't really until the Sneaker Pimps released Becoming X and Everything But The Girls' Walking Wounded that the genre got a little more rotation and even some videos on MTV.
I always wondered when more groups would follow the more radio friendly sound, and Olive happens to be one of those group. The overall soft sounds of the group land a little bit lighter than even the aforementioned Everything But The Girl, and are more like the electronic-infused equivalent of easy listening r+b. It's not to say that this release isn't enjoyable, it's just a very non-challenging one. None of the beats on the album thump with any resound, and although the vocals of Ruth-Ann are great, the music backing them up is fairly safe.
The album starts out on a pretty good note with "Miracle," but at seven and a half minutes long, it simply doesn't change up enough over its duration to hold attention. After a nice dreamy intro and some subtle (as are all the ones on the disc) beats, the song meanders through a fairly standard verse/chorus structure before it drags down a bit at the end. Another track that works quite well on the disc is the fourth track entitled "Killing," mainly because it eschews the standard song format and works in almost a dub mode, with soft touches of vocals bouncing in and out of the mix occassionally. On "Curious," the group delves into a bit of drum and bass, and it adds a little bit more flavor to the proceedings.
Overall, if you like your trip-hop more on the mainstream side, you're probably not going to go wrong here, and it actually probably falls into a category called "trip-pop" as none of the beats on the album really have enough swagger and the song structures are pretty darn traditional minus two. If you like the softer sides of Everything But The Girls electronic efforts, or the radio-friendly tracks of Dido's No Angel, you'll probably like this as well.