THE BUG Featuring WARRIOR QUEEN
DEM A BOMB WE
Out in the perimeters of raggatronica there exist extreme strains that might once have been related to hardcore dancehall riddims but now pulse at such a terminal velocity that all comparisons are void, the primary source of these mutations was largely Kevin Martin aka the Bug who despite his savage intent still always manages to traces his links back to the reggae fount. His new label is launched as a collaboration vehicle for female MCs and singers and debuts gal of the times Warrior Queen and a fevered meditation on post 7/7 London. Her opening instantly frozen spoken line " …. some crazy muthafuckas out deh" echoes Junior Murvin’s " … sipple out deh" (‘sipple’ meaning slippery or dicey!) from ‘Police and Thieves’, an almost pastoral sound compared with this blast rushing like an unseasonably bitter wind through the streets of the capital. This is true reggaematic production style as Kevin sent the beats, the Queen rapped the instant reply and the tune is on the street.
STEREO MASH UP
MARS RECORDINGS CD
Stereo Mash Up is Slade Anderson’s aka Burning Babylon fifth release and a follow up to last year’s ‘Knives to the Treble’. Since the last album Anderson has carried on the studio experimentation in the certain knowledge that hard work will take him wherever he wants to go. Although at time the sound may be a little metronomic in the style of all early stage one man operations this is a collection of conscious variation and experimentation ranging from the sweet and light, ‘Pressure Tones’ which sounds like 2Tone melodies recollected in a frothy daydream, through Ruts/Clash style guitar driven Kasbah rockers, ‘Zamora Version’, to tougher dancehall and deeply dubby excursions sourced with a better class of vocal sample, including a chirpy cover of ‘Stalag’. The next challenge to get ‘out of the bedroom’, as recognised so successfully by Ryan Moore/Twilight Circus, is the recruitment of vocalists and DJs – tuff indeed!
If 2003’s ‘Ascend’ was bass heavy then this time round Dub Gabriel drags every other element up in the mix to create a massively dense sound that’s now hovering between the incomparable Mutamassik and the later work of the irreplaceable Muslimgauze. After ‘War in the Poppy Fields’ with Arad Nazarzadeh chopping out on saaz over martial percussion and an obligatory Gnawa style flute loop its starts getting serious. ‘Zooklyn’ is a big pan-Arabian street parade with elephantine percussion, clashing outsize cymbals – a slow, deliberate lurch towards the rest of the album’s feast. Dub Gabriel’s concerns are more cultural than consistently highly defined political focus of his sonic mentor Bryn Jones, hence the dedication to the major Sufi poet of divine love Jalaluddin Rumi on the album’s most lyrical and meditative cut ‘Rumi Go through Me’. But the monstrous short organ drone that opens and threads through the densely textured ‘Garden in the Light in the Shade of Grey’ scores most impact on the set and triggers a surely to be unfulfilled longing to hear Terry Riley in Dub.
NIGHT FOOD OUT-TAKES & BLACK ARK SESSIONS
Having moved on from their ‘golden period’ at Studio One with Clement Dodd, the Heptones were picked up by Island in the early reggae feeding frenzy of the mid seventies. Over 1976 and 1977 they cut ‘Night Food’ with Harry J then ‘Party Time’ with Lee Perry. The first was a clean, commercial attempt at a ‘back to the roots’ song-based set with a mix of relicks of earlier hits and killer new tunes; Scratch’s production engine at Black Ark was at full steam so the follow-up was a much more steamy affair swathed in the producer’s signature swirling viscous sound. Out-takes from the Perry sessions have already surfaced on sets such as ‘Arkology’ but appearing for the first time now is a bunch of genuinely unreleased masters from reggae’s most influential vocal harmony group. Without the sugary overdubs that plagued the original album the late appearance of these tunes justifies their exclusion from the final track list as they are clearly inferior to those that made it, though there are funky dubs from the Wailers Band, especially ‘Hill and Dub’ the version to the socially conscious observation ‘Living Up on a Hill’. Four alternate extended cuts of contemporary Perry tracks are a real bonus and reinforce the point, both ‘Mystery Babylon’ and ‘Sorrows’ featuring mystery DJ Ranking King and there’s an intense discomix of ‘Party Time’. So what threatened to be merely an ‘interesting’ release for reggae archivist becomes a must for Scratch fans.
ALL PLAYED OUT
ROUND TRIP MARS CD
Just as it looked like NZ had a surfeit of slick soul-stylin’ so smooth reggae bands the return of the International Observer aka Tom Bailey and Maori operator Rakai Karaitiana weighs the balance in towards tuffer dubwise sounds with this follow up to 2000's ‘Seen’ on Stinky Jim’s Round Trip Mars label. Bailey went a long way to bury his old vinyl jodhpurs and horrifying red ponytail in the mountains, he should face up to the fact that he will always be a recovering Thompson Twin. No shame in producing a well-crafted album that outperforms many top drawer UK roots acts and also possesses that rare commodity - tunes! The slow sliding intro to the opener ‘Leaf Mold’, complete with solo cuckoo, has multiple fake starts before setting the slow but hard steppers pace that runs through this impressive set. ‘Freyberg Place Mat’ was written especially for an Auckland show that was cancelled due to stormy weather, whilst ‘Seedsaver's Dub" was recorded for the an anti GM demo in Auckland and ‘London Dub’ in a fit of uncontrollable, but obviously misplaced, nostalgia for the London Underground’s Northern Line – in other words these tunes seem to have meaning …..
AUGUSTUS PABLO AT KING TUBBYS
Pablo is represented as both interpreter and innovator on this Bunny Lee produced set compiled from singles, album tracks and dub version flips where Striker was in control – hence the direct relationship with Tubby. There are classic tooting tracks here from the early ‘Thriller’ set in the shape of ‘No Jestering Pablo’, ‘Rough Pablo’ and ‘Every Dub I Own’ – an instrudub to the Bread pop hit ‘Everything I Own’ made popular in Jamaica via Ken Boothe’s sweet version, plus covers of Nora Dean’s evergreen ‘Barbwire (in his Underpants’), the Wailer’s ‘Put it On’, Burning Spear’s ‘Foggy Road’ and the Impressions’ ‘Queen of the Minstrels’. But its two versions of popular song where Pablo excels as interpreter, an art for which he is rarely credited, his take on ‘My Desire’ the flip of John Holt’s tribute to r’n’b super-crooner Jesse Belvin manages to hit one of those melodic spots that raises the hairs on the back of your neck. As for his version of Burt Bacharach’s ‘A House is not a Home’ its clear that for Tubby this was not a job but more a labour of love as he energises the rhythm through a mix that’s threaded by Pablo in a true jazz improve style. And riffing a little here, Burt’s website is called ‘A House is not a Homepage’ – and now on version 3!
CRAZY WORLD OF DUB
JAMAICAN RECORDINGS CD/LP
Another apparent sucker punch from Jamaican Recordings that turns out dud and perhaps the thing only ‘crazy’ about this album is the fact that the concept reached production. Max Romeo is best perhaps best known for his accidental ‘rude’ hit ‘Wet Dream’ but more creditably for his work with Niney and then Scratch, culminating in the roots classic ‘War Ina Babylon’. Like many other talented Jamaican singers though he took paying gigs where he could. There’s little on this pleasantly undistinguished Bunny Lee produced album that consists of a few one away rhythms and a bunch of covers including Ken Booth’s ‘Artibella’, Little Roy’s ‘Tribal War’, Peter Tosh’s ‘Steppin’ Razor’ and ‘Legalise It’, John Holt’s ‘The Clock’ and the Wailers’ ‘Keep On Moving’.
PRESSURE Featuring WARRIOR QUEEN
Kode9 and Daddi G reserve the Hyperdub 10 inch vinyl imprint series for their own work whilst the 12 inch pieces are for guests. The first outing came from the mysterious Burial with the genre-busting South London Boroughs EP describing urban soundscapes in fresher sonic languages. The equally anonymous Pressure links with in-demand Warrior Queen to focus on the frustrations of a woman’s role in the more domestic daily agenda, concentrating on the minutiae of just getting-by in the city on. The track opens with what sounds like a re-created soundtrack from Roger Corman’s ‘Premature Burial’ with mournful organ and gasping breaths before the beats comes down to develop into a frantic rhythm bed consisting of a series of collapsing and colliding breaks, the extended mix stretches the breaks into lighter skittering waves with the Queen getting the dubbed up treatment after a more comfortable rap. Deciphering the chat will need further research.
U ROY & KING TUBBY
U ROY MEETS KING TUBBYS
U Roy may not have been the most militant or lyrically creative DJ but boy, he could really swing! This exultant tumble through his sides cut for Bunny Lee in the late seventies, a period that initially might be seen as journeyman output but, in retrospect, given interpretation through the revisionist lens of jazzbo-style archivist this could be justifiably seen as his finest hour alongside the lost Channel One ‘Right Time’ sessions and after the string of monster hits cut for Duke Reid. Not forgetting that Daddy Hugh Roy was also there to partner Tubby as his lead MC on the Hometown Hi Fi sound, as Tubbs dubbed down the zinc fences that bound the dance with waves of echo and reverb whilst the DJ toasted fresh dubplates with freestyle jives. The story here on yet another Bunny Lee reconfiguration, but well worthwhile, has U Roy scatting over Cornel Campbell's 'The Gorgon' and 'I Shall Not Remove', Johnny Clarke's 'Every Knee Shall Bow', 'Creation Rebel', and 'Rock With Me' with dubwise version action from the master excursions from King Tubby. Nice to have as they say.
DUB RARITIES BOX SET
Trojan, the Walmart of reggae labels, stacks ‘em up and ships ‘em out in such a rapid fashion that one could be forgiven for ignoring the Box Set series. Admittedly cheap, nastily packaged, usually containing lots of filler and not much in the way of killer. This one might look cheap and nasty at a tenner a shot the killer more than makes up for the filler. A fairly random set of fifty mostly seventies dubs authored by Scratch, Niney, Tappa Zukie, his brother Blackbeard, Pablo, Bunny Lee, Linval Thompson. Its claimed most are new to CD though lets not waste out time arguing that one when we have stone classics like the Observers’ ‘Headline’ the version to ‘Six Dead Nineteen Gone to Jail’ the Big Youth DJ cut on ‘Dennis Brown’s interpretation of ‘My Time’ and ‘Boiling Water’ an unmissable wah wah guitar dub to the same singer’s ‘Westbound Train’ and the remarkable ‘Iron Fist’ from 1979 which creates a template for the digital revolution that was to follow fully five years later. There are several Perry scorchers including ‘Dub in Time’ (still looking for the vocal version to this tune please!) and the fabulous ‘Iron Wolf’ with dubbed harmony chants and what sounds like a wah wah organ running right through the mix which I is a dub to Bunny and Ricky’s ‘Freedom Fighter’ though I cannot recall the 7 inch flip being so wild!