BENGA BEATS CD
Benga’s had this out via his own website earlier in the year, a set of fifteen tunes from the past couple of years. He first reached out from South London on the now epochal “Tempa DubStep AllStars Volume One” from DJ Hatcha about a year or so ago, prior to that putting out tunes on the Big Apple label out of Croydon, the epicentre of dubstep. With “Newstep” the scope of this music becomes even more defined, whereas the surfaces of Burial’s album can get grainy like gravel under foot, this can come clean like cold chrome on skin, closer now to those long forgotten UK electro sounds than any hip hop styling. There are cuts here that just make you gasp: “Dominion” is a choreographed march of demented Scientologists whooping and chanting for L. Ron, scary; imagine “Zombie Jig” and you have it, a gristly mechanical half-stepper. In fact, in common with other new dubstep there is something disturbingly ceremonial about many of the tunes here; it will be intriguing to observe the inevitably emerging dance attitudes.
Martin Clark is perhaps better know to date as a chronicler of the development of the dubstep scene on his own blackdownsoundboy blog and as a regular contributor to the excellently uninhibited Pitchfork Media site. The condition of observer will not last much longer as his Blackdown persona assumes greater control. With fellow artist Dusk he released “Drenched/Submerge” on the label co-created for their output, Keysound, so called to reflect the sonic keystone loops that coalesce the atmospherics of the track into the rhythm, a technique employed in common with fellow dubstep artist Burial. This latest one has a sampled vocal from Indian songbird Lata Mangeshkar floating behind the heavy bass drop and drone – sinodub excursions are planned for the future. The flesh of “Crackle Blues” must be probed to find an acapella of the traditional blues song “Jack O Diamonds” lurking underneath, a Lomax recording of Leadbelly perhaps that’s virtually discarded on the Burial remix, as is the boom of the bass, replaced by clattering wood and furiously skittering light percussion.
LOG ON!! / CHANNEL ONE UK CD
Martin Campbell, British born but raised in Jamaica, is an artist whose entire reputation to date rests one single issued back in 1990, (“Why Must The) Wicked Rule”. A simple lyric, devastatingly delivered in a plaintive sufferer style, on top of a painfully pleading horn-riff, it was one of those tunes that just stepped out of time. And it still does, included here with its original horns version plus a strictly drum and bass stripped down dub, standing as it does at the forefront of the then burgeoning UK nu roots movement perhaps time is overdue for a proper reappraisal of that scene. Produced by Cambell in association with Channel One’s JoJo Hookim, with only three cuts on this showcase style set the rest of the space is occupied by dubs from house band Hi Tech Roots Dynamics and a great sax led instrumental from Bob Ormrod in tribute to the ‘other’ Channel 1 in Kingston “Roots Rock 29 Maxfield”.
EXTRA DUB: EXODUS DUB / UPRISING IN DUB
It’s always been a point that rankles, the fact that the Wailers had an outstanding body of work both pre and post the solo Marley years, but there has never been a satisfactory dubwise collection of their tunes. Most of the early Perry produced sides were instrumental run thoughs, with the glorious exception of the twelve inch cut of “Keep On Moving” that finds Scratch a flicker short of total dub distortion, and the occasional Tuff Gong single only nudged into the lower reaches of the dub satisfaction zone. The album “Chalawa Exodus Dub” appeared last around ten years ago after originally popping up not long after the release of Marley’s album, likewise the “Uprising” set. By no means a revelation, these sets remain a great tribute to the spirit of the originals with some of the versions raised above a jazzy lilt to a tougher dub level, cool curiosities.
DUB SPENCER & TRANCE HILL
96 RECORDINGS / ECHO BEACH CD
It’s just impossible to dislike some albums that trade so unselfconsciously on the dub genre, like the recent Easy Allstars’ Floyd tribute “Dub Side Of The Moon” (“Radiodread” is shortly to be unleashed!). This debut full-length release from Swiss trio Dub Spencer & Trance Hill (Adrian Pflugshaupt, Marcel Stalder and Christian Niederer) is just one of those as the gang take a modern slant reggae’s old pre-occupation with the Wild West, especially the spaghetti westerns. Coming from nowhere these boys adopt the persona of cartoon heroes and ride rhythms into town where they dub the feuding locals into submission, it sounds cheesy, it shouldn’t work, but it does.
JOE GIBBS & THE PROFESSIONALS
AFRICAN DUB ALL MIGHTY: CHAPTER THREE
JOE GIBBS EUROPE LP
Volume three was the one; back in 1977 greeted with derision by some purists but welcomed by others as a potential step for the genre towards more mainstream recognition, in other words – sales. It never really happened, either for this volume or its three companions which have all reappeared simultaneously via the Joe Gibbs French outlet. Earlier volumes are more formal drum and bass outings but number three comes with the sounds of thunder, sirens, gushing water and all the usual dub efx thrown in with abandon by the usually restrained Erroll Thompson, the one that is the sucker DJ selection is the title tracks take on “Hypocrites” a bass line directly related to “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown” but there are other killer versions: “The Entebbe Affair” on Pablo’s “Cassava Piece” and “Jungle Dub” on the Mighty Diamonds’ “Ghetto Living”. In fact it’s all great fun from start to finish and essential for those new to the origins of the genre.
INNA DE YARD
INNA DE YARD CD/DVD
With the exception of the longtime hardcore or the more recent glut of moneyed reggae collectors the name of Kiddus I, aka Frank Dowding, was only known to those struck by his “Graduation In Zion” track from a brief early appearance in recently reissued ‘Rockers’, a truly remarkable document, masquerading as a feature film but managing to capture the excitement of Jamaica’s indigenous roots reggae scene of the late seventies. However Kiddus I never recorded an album and his entire work consists of a handful of singles on his own Sheperd (sic) label. Accompanied here by arranger and guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, who opened the Inna De Yard series experience with his own debut set, Kiddus I delivers a full manifesto of roots consciousness that has become unfashionable in these times. The package includes a bonus DVD with interview plus footage of the acoustic sessions.
KING TUBBY & FRIENDS
MOTION DUB SPECIAL – CLASSIC DUBS 1974-1978
After an extended sabbatical the largely dub-themed revival label relaunches with a mid-priced compilation that turns out to be just like one of those great cassette selections that used to circulate amongst collections in the days before the CD revolutionised the market. Picking tracks from a back catalogue that may not have had the limelight of Blood and Fire or Pressure Sounds may seem risky but this is a pure joy right through with tracks that became instant and overdue classics on their reissue, such as the DJ’s delight, the ultra-funky “Fugitive Dub” from the Skatalites “Herb Man Dub” and Tubby’s seemingly respectful treatment of the old chestnut “Whispering Grass” which comes in for a severe binghi drum plunging after the guitar melody is stretched over a twisting reverb. Two tracks are included from the forthcoming Jacob Miller dub set both featuring Bernard “Touter” Harvey on an irresistibly fat and farting Moog synth over wah wah and wailing harmonica, but the jewel is the closing “Jah for I” a Rockstones dub from Niney the Observer a sparsely driven dubplate cut with martial horns dub at times acapella to seemingly reach up above the rhythm as if attempting to soar above Tubby’s swipe at the echo spring, as enormous a dub as the master ever created and all on an eight track.
SCIENTIST & PRINCE JAMMY
DUB LANDING VOLUMES 1 & 2
This album crept out in the UK back in 1981 as the last crest of the dubwave was hitting with the series of album cut by Scientist, in the main, for producer/entrepreneur Henry “Junjo” Lawes and released by Greensleeves in those great sleeves depicting Championship Fights, Space Invaders, Vampires and PacMan cartoon style in the sleeve art. The technique employed by Scientist had steadily moved the bass of the Roots Radics’ Flabba Holt up into a dominant position in the mix, which at its best was truly rockstone, and although those Greensleeves albums still remain popular this lesser known work is equally as riveting. Scientist judicious use of the more gimmicky dub tricks is put to good use and often lends the tracks further dynamics and colour in the absence of a horn section. Produced by Linval Thompson the set takes tunes from Al Campbell, Rod Taylor and Barry Brown out of their vocal shackles and into new elasticated zones best checked by the young mixer’s re-imagining of Freddy McKay’s “Hey Stranger” once a fairly prosaic roots tune and now an inter-dimensional battlezone. Perhaps the inclusion of Volume 2 explains why the best dub albums are always around thirty five minutes long – a rest is advised before starting back on this one
DUB CLUB EDITIONS (ROCK WITH ME SESSIONS)
The fact that Seven Dub’s tunes have been licensed by Chicago’s Guidance label gives a good clue of what to expect here – the smoother end of club reggae, although vocals from Zap Mama’s Angelique and Paul St.Hilaire plus a guest appearance from the legendary DJ Lone Ranger is enough to generate an anticipatory frisson the heights get no higher than the early wah-wah and stumbling bass of “Intro” as a form of cocktail reggae dub soul numbingly takes over proceedings. Maybe there’s a chain of European corporately branded and harmonized dub lounges commissioning this stuff.
SKIN FLESH & BONES MEET THE REVOLUTIONARIES
FIGHTING DUB 1975-1979
Originally released in 1975 on the Love label “Fighting Dub” now reappears courtesy of Steve Barrow’s Hotpot label with eight extra tracks from producer Lloyd Campbell’s seventies output. The album itself is a competent enough outing with Erroll ‘ET’ Thompson at the desk turning out a crisp set of version, but the real star here turns out to be Vin Gordon whose trombone adds some beautifully unsettling tones to “Scotch Dub” particularly, a brooding cut where ET has the reverb set to max on all but the steady drum and bass. The bonus cuts supply most interest with Gordon on two extended later cuts with the Revolutionaries, “Soferno” is on the “My Conversation” theme and the “Cobra Rock” turns out to be a dub take on “First Cut Is The Deepest” voiced for Campbell by Joy White; also worth noting is the dub to Lloyd Hemmings “Africa” cut for Campbell when the singer was just fourteen, but the sparse mix predicts the darker regions explored by Scientist with the Radics a few years later.
DREAD HOT IN AFRICA
Briefly out on the strictly ‘press and push’ UK Burning Sounds imprint in the late seventies, this ‘so-called’ self production by the “Reggae Don” Leroy Smart has been unobtainable since. This time it comes with the addition of four crisp rockers cuts to make the double vinyl worthwhile, including one coruscating extended dub mix “Walk Away From Trouble”. With Tubby, Jammy and Channel One’s Jo Jo Hookim at the desk for voicing it would have been great to have some of the dubs, especially as the uncredited horn arrangements of the great Jimmy Radway (who gets no mention in the predictably self-laudatory interview) pop up on opener “Mr. Smart”. One detects the fleeting shadow of Bunny Lee who’s the only producer to get a check here. Indeed there must have been rhythms like dirt lying around Tubby’s studio floor as there are re-cycled versions galore here including a staple Yabby You tune a la “Chant Down Babylon Kingdom”, Horace Andy’s “Zion Gate” and the Abyssinians’ “Declaration of Rights”. Having said that, it’s still good to have an original album from a vocalist on top form who remains one of reggaes greats, albeit one who carries such a fearsome reputation that it’s maybe not surprising his work remains so under-represented.