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Monday, October 01, 2007

Dub Review - October 2007

Kaya Dub
Not a dub version of Jah Bob's paean to weed but a collection of dub from Wailers re-versions cut by Bunny Lee for his stable of singers to vocalise, mainly the great Johnny Clarke. This set was first out in the UK in 1978 on Third World Records and this time round is augmented by the addition of five extra dubs of tunes immortalised by Wailers. The dubs have Jammy at the top of his game, especially on the dub to Jackie Edwards' take of "So Jah Sey", with triumphal horns draped across the rhythm and liberal release of the vocals in the mix. There are two versions of the Wailer's biggest tune "No Woman No Cry", first up an energetic but unremarkable vamp by Jammy but that's followed immediately by a Tubby's mix sampling sobbing that gives way to a mix that Tubby manipulates like a sonic cat's cradle

The Bug feat. Killa P. & Flow Dan
Skeng / Skeng (Kode9 remix)
Real rude boy business all on a rhythm that has the weight of a falling wall, this is possibly the most frightening piece of music I have ever heard. The vocals, down several notches from Shabba at his dirtiest, are slurred, purposefully indecipherable with half-meanings poking through the mix like shards of broken glass – the rhyming of nurse and hearse tells you where this journey ends. I suppose it's to be expected from two members of East London's prolific Roll Deep grime crew, Killa P and Flow Dan, and can only be treated sensibly as a sick but compelling document on street survival. It's a taster from Kevin Martin's upcoming set for Ninja Tune and if there's much more like this on the set it would be enough to induce psychosis. Kode9 has been hauling this around the world for the last few months and its sounds like there are Japanese radio samples introducing the remix, which comes almost as a lightweight relief to the shock of its source.

Dub Project
Ryan Moore, aka Twilight Circus Sound System and proprietor of the Dub Project, wisely fronts up this set with its three vocal tracks before launching into some of the non-stop major abstractions to follow, although Big Youth on vocals rather than inna DeeJay style can be a challenge to his biggest fans, check "We Can't We be Friends". The 'Erroll T on acid' rampage of "On The Edge" and the woozily drunken, I
believe the word maybe crunked, rhythm of Jah Stitch and Michael Rose's update of Far I's "Throw Away Your Gun" prepares inadequately for what is to come – which bears a close relationship to some of the earlier and wilder On U Sound dub experiments, unhinged mixes, kitchen sink sampling and regular Gregorian chant interludes. Which is all to say this is all great fun, most non-standard dub these days tends on the seriously dry, imparting poke-in-the-eye messages, so an album that invokes both Sun Ra and Spike Milligan within the architecture of dub, and Sparky's Magic Piano, must find a way into the hearts of dubheads everywhere.

Bouncing Radar Beams off The Moon
Billed as "a post-rock, psychedelic, electronic concept recording in dub" Austin's Canartic come across like I always imagined Jesus Acedo's Black Sun Ensemble would turn out if they had submitted to the dub gospel. For those who find drone too much of a challenge and the charms of dub resistible then these this slow-mo, psychedelic riffing and air-borne sonic curlicues from Jon Coats and Randall Peterson may provide the missing link via Tubby and back to "3rd Stone From The Sun". Titles such as "London 67", "Pie Eyed Piper" and the "Soft Collapse" give enough clues, maybe Canartic also come from the school who believe Pink Ffloyd lost their way before the end of that decade and should have ended up in dub's true space. Fans of straightedge dubism beware, this is strictly for those who believe psychedelia never delivered its intent, smokey, spacey and out there.

Rare and Unreleased Dub
Revolver Records targeted the lower-income African market in South Africa, recording local gospel and reggae artists before going international and dealing Jamaican reggae and Mississippi gospel into the local market – they have a Jimmy Swaggart alongside Burning Spear in their catalogue. This seminal dub set from Culture's high tide of hits back in 1978 is back in press and is a 'must have' as the track listing versions many of their greatest tunes. Originally on Sonia Pottinger's High Note label and mixed by Errol Brown who toured with the group in 1979, dubbing the Revolutionaries across the UK, there are three additional tracks – notably "Two Sevens Clash Dub". But it's the dub version of "Love Shines Brighter" that induces a weak-legged swoon, appearing as "Everyday Love Dub" with the brass section of Headley Benett on tenor sax, David Madden on trumpet, Vin Gordon on trombone and Cedric Im Brooks on alto sax contribute what must be the most uplifting horn sections in all of reggae.

Dub Trio
Cool Out and Coexist
Not for the weak hearted. Dub Trio have already proven dub credentials from their previous ROIR outings, but they have also given past notice of a perverse ability to slip into unmediated neck-snapping riffage a la Prong circa 1988. With stop/start echo and reverb stuttering in real time from the mixing desk whilst playing live last year at Brooklyn's Union Pool maybe it's a more reflective Bad Brains that are brought to mind, especially on tracks like "Jack Bauer", which has a definite Gang of Four resonance before the climactic axe hero conclusion and "One Man Tag Crew" where sticksman Joe Tomino exorcises drum legends of both metal and reggae. In a time when formlessly cultured drift and doodles seem to be shaping the musical norm, Dub Trio are an unfashionably tight outfit whose members could have slotted in with either Zappa, Miles Davis or the Soul Syndicate.

GG Allstars
Roots Man Dub
Roots Man Dub first appeared in 1978 on GG Records Hit label, GG being the imprint of Alvin GG Ranglin, perhaps best associated with the early work of Greg Isaacs and the mighty I Roy. The original album is enhanced by the addition of extra dubs from the Maytones, the Starlights and Al Brown whilst the second disc consists of fourteen unreleased selections. The dubs were mixed down at Channel One by Ernest Hookim and house engineer Maxie appearing on the flip of assorted labels through the late seventies and as such there is the expected recycling of Studio One stalwart rhythms. "Iron Gate" is the dub to Bim Sherman's "Mighty Ruler", a Ja-Man 7" on the Heptones "Tripe Girl" rhythm; "Heartical Dub" is the flip to Neville Tate's take on Horace Andy's "See A Man's Face", whilst "Let Me Dub" lift's Bob Andy's "Unchained" with a glimpses of Leroy Smart and George Faith vocals in the mix – and so it goes; this is real connoisseurs stuff, no gimmicky, wild dubbing, just tunes the way they should be.

Lone Ranger
On The Other Side of Dub
The man that launched a thousand "ribbitttts!!!" and "biddley bongs!!!" and who claimed of his song character vampire Barnabas Collins, "him … chew yu neck like a Wrigglies"! Heartbeat do the business in their luxurious re-upholstering of the 1977 album from the original new wave dancehall DeeJay by adding all the dub versions to that set's tracks plus the discomix of "Keep on Coming a the Dance". The whole thing is a Studio One rhythm treat with classics such as Ernest Wilson's "Why Oh Why", Jackie Mittoo's "The Thing", the Royal's "Pick Up the Pieces", Slim Smith's "Never Let Go" and Horace Andy's "Skylarking" all rewound in DeeJay and dub style; and if you can stand up to the non-stop niceness and strictly good natured mashing-up of the dance then this is the perfect antidote to the current sounds of the city.

The Skatalites
Rolling Steady (The 1983 Music Mountain Sessions)
In 1983 the original Skatalites, less trombonist in the sky Don Drummond, re-formed to appear at Jamaica's Sunsplash Festival and warmed up by recording eleven tracks at the newly opened Music Mountain, nine with full horn sections. The band fell out shortly afterwards and the tapes were held by Jackie Mittoo and eventually passed to UK producer Tony Owens, and its these tapes that have now been largely restored to produce the final recorded statement of the original Skatalites line up, the foundation band of reggae and one of the most legendary and influential groups of all time and all genres. The opener "We Nah Sleep" is one of those classic half-pace minor key ska number that is just a stone aching skank and would stand alongside any of their top tunes; this is followed by the zombie jig of "Contention" and the only vocal on the set, "Big Trombone", a tribute to Don Drummond from Lord Tanamo. Drummer Lloyd Knibb even gets on a Bernard Purdie breakbeat groove at times in the set, but there's absolutely nothing to match the peerless playing of those saxes in unison from Tommy McCook, Lester Stirling and Roland Alphonso.

The Slickers
The truth is if any band comes up with a tune like "Johnny Too Bad" then their legendary status is writ large, and so it is with the Slickers whose reputation was assured once the song was included in the soundtrack of The Harder They Come. The group members were for a time interchangeable with the Pioneers as brothers Sydney and Derrick Crooks were both founder members and the latter went on to form the Slickers. This re-release originally appeared in the States on the Tads label in 1979 with tracks recorded at the Black Ark and Harry J's under the guidance of Geoffrey Chung, arrangements by Clive Hunt and engineered by Scratch and Sylvan Morris (Studio One). And as the opener 'Give Us a Break" kicks in there's an expectation that the voices of the Congos will arrive soon, instead it's looser harmonies that prevail, more along the lines of Joe Hill and Culture. "Johnny Too Bad" is reprised, but it's an inferior version, however "Every Wolf" is prime Upsetter roots and cries out for application of full dubism treatment. That's the highlight and a couple of other tunes come close but basically its appeal lies with Upsetter aficionados

Ragga Jungle Dubs
Following on from the two Jungle Anthems sets this is a collection of rarer dubs and unreleased mixes from all to brief heady days of junglist rule in the early nineties, its seems like one month North London was full of booming car sound systems and the next it was soporific jazz-funk samples on tinkling waves like a sonic laxatives. Of course the reason many of these tracks were unreleased is probably the label recognised the market had moved elsewhere. But great to hear now that DK Monk mixed Anthony Redrose's "Tempo" into a tune that hits like a heavyweight fifteen years later – the drum and bass dub of "Hotter Junglematical Style", same goes for Beenie Man & Bounty Killer on "People Dead" and Admiral Bailey & Mad Cobra on "Skin Out". It's the shout out tunes that work best but the whole thing swings like

Bunny Wailer
Placing Blackheart Man and Rock 'n Groove in the highest order of reggae albums I always look forward to any new offerings from Jah Bunny – albeit they are few and far between these days, but this one is bizarre beyond words. Especially the opening references to gays, lesbians, masturbators (seriously!) and 'pocket billiard players' entreating them to join in the rub a dub dance 'man to woman'. It's not unknown for Bunny to be traveling in the opposite direction to the rest but usually it's done with some self insight and humility. The rhythms are largely lame one man band jigs from Danny 'Gumption' Thompson and Bunny raises his vocals on occasion; a sad affair.