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Saturday, June 01, 2002

Dub Review - June 2002

Bandulu Jahquarius/Dub


Always at their best when their techno tendencies splinter into shiny breaks or reverts into the confident dub style which provides their base, Bandulu's new album Redemption is perhaps best bypassed by fans of version for two 7" singles out in parallel. Jahquarius and Detention both come with incendiary dubs which skank along at a rapid pace, the former is the pick of the two even taking into account John O'Connel's lightweight, but heartfelt vocals. If you check for these then the album will follow.

Big Youth Ride Like Lightning - The Best of Big Youth 1972 -1976


For those weakhearts who wavered over the purchase of Blood & Fire's magnificent Natty Universal Dread, their sumptuously produced three CD overview of the mighty Youth, here's an alternative that's not too far away in quality of content and a lot less expensive. Dave Hendley has anthologised the DJ over two discs, the first covering productions from Lee Perry, Keith Hudson, Derek Harriott, Gussie Clarke, Glen Brown, Joe Gibbs, Phil Pratt and Sonia Pottinger from the early to mid seventies, whilst the seconds selects from Youth's later self productions. Given that most these tunes originated as 7" singles with versions on the flip and the majority of these rhythms are stone classics, lovers of the dub will be disappointed to be only served by two mixes. Nevertheless this set now becomes the best place to start on an understanding of the cultural phenomenon that was Big Youth.

The Bug vs. The Rootsman ft. Mexican www


Reminiscent of those early Mark Stewart solo outings where the distortion was built into the cut, leaving no room for manoeuvre on the replay. Hardcore beats taken to the extreme is the aim, the envelope is not pushed - its ripped up and thrown away. Not to be compared to anything happening to dub in Europe along the lines of Pole, Rhythm & Sound and the click and cut brigades, which despite its rough grain can remain, somehow, clean. This is dirty music.

Dry&Heavy New Creation/Creative Version


Featuring two new vocal tracks from the forthcoming album From Creation but
for the corresponding dubs this piece of vinyl is required. Little Mai's vocal
shines as usual on the title track, an uptempo rockers style tune.
On the flip Right Track, with vocal from Big Al, comes on like a cover of a
classic - but its an original. Despite the fine vocal performances it's
the dubs which are remarkable, fierce, raging mixes in the style of Erroll
Thompson's best work for Culture. Dry and Heavy are touring in Europe
throughout the summer. Worth catching I would say.

Hydroponics From The Growing Room


The Hydroponics' second album release finds Dougie Wardrop heading for more traditional territory with a vocal and dub showcase. Originally conceived strictly as a dub follow up to their first outing the rhythms were laid down at Conscious Sounds last summer. Inevitably, being a busy time for the studio, passing singers and DJs became involved in the sessions and several of the rhythms were voiced by JA legend Prince Alla and long time associates Singer Blue and Culture Freeman. Kenny Knotts, Sister Maria and Pablo Diamond added their contributions and by the autumn a full set of vocal cuts had been recorded. The tracks were then stripped back and rebuilt by Jah Wardrop in trademark heavyweight style. Although the dubs are a preference to these ears its encouraging to find young producers taking the time to cut vocal tracks these days instead of going for the easy shots.

Love Grocer Fresh Produce


Love Grocer is a musical collaboration centred around the songwriting duo of Chris Petter (trombone, keyboards & bass) and David Fulwood (trumpet & guitar) who, as the main players in the Crispy Horns brass section, have featured on releases from major artists in the arena - Mad Professor, Stereo MC's, Morcheeba, Steel Pulse, ADF, Horace Andy, to name but a few. And although it must be great to be asked to work with these well established artists there's nothing like doing it for yourself. This then is the follow-up to their excellent debut, the mainly instrumental Rockin' with the Love Grocer, graced by the unique harmony sound of their brass ensemble playing.

This time vocal flavours are added by roots stalwart Earl 16 on the dramatic No Turning Back, MC Spee delivers a nice, lazy chat on a Stalag variant Salute to Sam, whilst Cheshire Cat revisits Love Grocer's most well loved tune A Little Rain. But the real outstanding quality in this set is the exemplary playing of Petter and Fulwood. Suffice to argue that all the great Jamaican instrumental musicians of the sixties remained generally unheralded until classic reggae started being retrieved and their stars began to shine, the talent of today should not suffer the same fate.

The Mighty Quark Silverdale


Mark O'Sullivan is the production brain of The Mighty Quark, an Irishman based in Sweden whose output is now released via Japan's Play label. Appearing last in the label's Stone, Scissors, Paper series The Mighty Quark stood out with dubbed up beats over grainy underlays that belonged to neither Chicago nor Berlin. This set confirms the promise, especially with the introduction of folk singer Tom Somers who remains determinedly a folk singer on top of the slow chugging Reasons to Love - too short a triumph! Mostly judicious jazz tinges weave in and out of the mix, but am I alone in thinking a trumpet mute is an unwanted item unless in the hands of the supremely gifted?

Stereotyp My Sound


Stereotyp a.k.a. Stefan Moerth spent five years in New York immersed in hip hop and ragga, moving back to Austria to become the protégé of Kruder and Dorfmeister. The vocals of Tikiman and Sugar B occupy this album's first four tracks which, in the style of the Viennese school, are a lighter electrodub than their northern counterparts in Berlin. There's an effortless infusion of 2 step, dancehall and garage influences in the mix, most successful on the gorgeous Fling Style which is Tikiman's finest vocal moment and should be issued as a single with version without delay! By the second half of the album the techsoul tendency has taken over completely with vocals from Cesar, Greenwood and Collee Royce. Although this is a tremendously accomplished debut album only the first half can be recommended as a dub thing.

Systemwide Pure and Applied


Part of the same new wave of electric dubbers as Dry & Heavy, Rhythm & Sound and many of the new Viennese outfits, in that dub provides the sonic framework rather than a restraining reference, Systemwide concluded last year with Scientist at the controls for their set at Seattle's Experience Music Project. That gig obviously fired them up as this new set finds the band in a buoyant mood, avoiding the tendency of some agitdub acts as coming over as a little too proselytising for their own good. Not so here, by the second track the fluid guitar and slightly phased vocals are coming on like Zappa in Waterhouse - now that would have been a treat! Guesting are Dr.Israel from Brooklyn on Crisis Time and Oakland's DJ Collage, who recently assisted the Sofa Surfers on their new material. This a much freer album than their previous work, their diverse influences are now well absorbed and the band are 100% committed to dubbing. Next up joyful sounds!

Linval Thompson Phoenix Dub


Motion have now established a niche in the UK, alongside Blood & Fire and Pressure Sounds, in the premier division of reggae reissue specialists. On top of that Motion is developing the knack of seeking out some lesser known and unissued gems, commercially risky but creatively well on the money. This new one is no exception, mixes by reggae's holy trinity of dubmasters Tubby, Jammy and Scientist on a bunch of tunes produced by vocalist Linval Thompson in the late seventies using the Revolutionaries and Roots Radics. The sound has moved out of the rockers and steppers era into a heavier pre-dancehall mostly brassless territory, but with plenty of invention on the mix before it all became too formulaic. The voices of Prince Alla, Johnny Osbourne, Barry Brown and other roots greats echo out on the intros, just the way it should be. Killer track is the opener a spookily atmospheric mix of John Holt's The Clock.

Various Impact Presents "Java" - The Remixes


Java is a rhythm which can never generate too many versions. This Clive Chin vinyl pressing out of New York contains Nick Mannaseh's reverential take which first appeared on a Select Cuts Blood & Fire remix collection. Whilst Java Passion, which has appeared before, is a strict percussion and melodica reading from Pablo himself plus Bongo Herman. But it's the Winston Wright keyboard cut which makes this release indispensable, serving up another keyboard driven reggae rare groove with a great big fat farting clavinet dominating a jauntier than usual mix. Buyers beware, not many of these expensive items around in the UK.

Various Studio One DJs


The probable reason for Studio One not being renowned for its work with DJs is that it was so strong in every other department. Undeterred, Soul Jazz continues its excellent series featuring different facets of the label with a collection that is a revelation, even for die-hard fans of the DJ art. The opening shot from MC Count Machuki, a tribute to Mr.Dodd entitled More Scorcha, sets the pace for this sixteen track set where the likes of Dennis Alcapone, Dillinger, Far I, Jazzbo and Big Joe, scat, chant, toast and rhyme on a series of heart-tugging, spine-tingling and gut-busting classic rhythms. Its great to hear from some of the lesser known DJs, Prince Francis, Jah Scotchie, Jah Buzz and Jah Jesco. The CD comes with bonus clips of the forthcoming film on Studio One, made with the full co-operation of Clement Dodd.

Zion Train Original Sounds of the Zion


Zion Train are something of a dub institution these days, they have introduced many new fans to the genre through their tireless touring and support of new artists and labels. Its good to report that for the core of this first album in three years they are largely back to their deep dubbing roots. Jono from Manchester's Nucleus Roots emcees the opening track which also has lovely clarion brass lines from those Crispy Horns a.k.a. Love Grocer! Other guests include regular Molara, London based Levi Roots and vocalist from Kava Kava Pat Fulgoni. For those who were pulled into the Zion Train experience by their wild-paced live sets then there's also a balance of the fast techno fusion tunes that have broken down the resistance of sluggish dancers world-wide.