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Monday, December 01, 2008

Dub Review - December 2008




Architektur's album is an uncomfortable mix of those sounds that seem to be embedded in the walls of lifestyle lounges across the globe, jazzy little ethnically inclined samples of uncertain origin – there are no source musician credits - a sinking low into the luxurious sofa experience, with dubby sonics - the diminutive is intended - and mind boggling juxtapositions bagged together in a mix and scattered over an otherwise over smoove mix. Apparently the artist has played across the globe since 2000, I was expecting a more city centred sound and what better cities than Austin – where he's based – and Vienna to create some atmospheres, but when its attempted on the track "Misinformation" the forties swing band in the middle of a jiggly reggae tune is just like a thumb in the eye and again on "Speedball" where Meat Beat Manifesto collides with Shorty Rogers. Totally perplexing is perhaps the point.

John Clarke / Bullwackie All-stars

Pollution / Horns Version


Pressed up in NYC by Wackies rather than part of the Basic Channel reissue programme via the Rhythm & Sound boys in Berlin, bringing back a tune from the 1980 album Rootsy Reggae this ten inch plate is a richly textured shuffling rhythm in the neo-Black Ark style adopted for the latter output of Lloyd 'Bullwackie' Barnes Bronx-based label, with a feel that the final dubby mix was run after the vocal was laid down as the heavily reverbed guitar bubble up around the John Clarke's delivery. Perversely the version is reductively engineered dubwise with a clear 'ghost' from the voice channel, maxed up top end percussion whilst a lonely, stridently insistent trombone pumps life into the mix. On the flip is Fabian Cooke's sufferers' tune "I&I", again in Upsetter terrain for the rhythm but reverting to an earlier era with less atmospherics happening in the dub.

Dub Gabriel

Anarchy & Alchemy


Relocation from NYC to SF has brought a degree of clarity about the things of value to be retained on this new album, Dub Gabriel's most realised and best so far, a move away from the explorations of 2005's Bass Jihad and more towards what has become a wider mainstream in the intervening years. No instrumentals here and not so much dubbing these days either, but the preoccupation with bass still dominates; opening the set is JahDan (Blakkamoore) fresh from the We Are Raiders E.P. with Matt Shadetek and DJ/Rupture in upscale smooth bashment style on "Chasing the Paper" followed by Karen Gibson Roc spat spoetics on "Spirit Made Flesh" which, to my ears, utilises a direct and intelligent lift of a Scratch produced female vocal scat from Superape days on a Black Ark style shifting shuffle rhythm – perhaps the highlight of the set if it weren't for the presence of REM's Michael Stipe on a reverential reading of Suicide's "Cheree" – with an string arrangement that at time evokes an early Velvet's dissonance. Juakali's jump-up "Mashup" has an urgency that makes an understanding of the lyric unnecessary whilst the centrepiece of the set, Judith Juileratt's "La Vie Senvole" has minimally undulating electric keys straight out of a Martin Rev tutuorial but with the nouveaux doo wop styling replaced by a dolorously whispered tale in French. All these are enough for the memory of the weaker, some might say 'iller', tracks to evaporate by the album's end.

Dub Specialist



Dub Specialist was the pseudonym for Studio One boss Clement Dodd when claiming credit as a dub mixing engineer, though best guess is he sat back and called the shots whilst Sid Bucknor or Sylvan Morris laid the executing hands on the desk. Most of the song sources for these dubs date back to the 60s, but were dusted off, remixed and reissued as dub sides on singles or album compilations in the '70s when dub had its shining hour. No matter the history this is foundation dub, versioned in excelsis by generations of dubsters down the line Originally released in 1995 under the title 17 Dub Shots from Studio One, the refashioned track list of the startling retitled Dub substitutes "Still Version" for "Beam Sound" and adds "Dub Me Girl" (from Larry Marshall's "Mean Girl"); with the two disc vinyl edition adding extended versions to "Heptones Gonna Fight / Hail Don D" and "Crab Walking", Jazzbo's DJ take on Horace Andy's evergreen rudeboy hymn "Skylarking". Opening track "Starring Dub" from the beautiful "Stars" by Cornell Campbell and the Eternals is one of the most unusual dubs in the label's catalogue as fluttering reverb efx run through most of the track, whereas usually its dubs are relatively free of obvious 'distortions'. The rest of the set is a top grade mix of familiar and more obscure rhythms in sparkling re-mastered form and as such essential.

Faya Horns

Fay Horns Meets Mad Professor and Joe Ariwa


Faya Horns are Eric 'Rico' Gaultier on saxophone and flute and Thomas Henning on trombone; together they provide the horn section for long-established Parisian band Faya Dub. Here the Mad Professor selects an array of rhythms from his back catalogue, mainly from vocalist Alan Kingpin, sliding between one drops, lovers, roots de longeur and raging steppers offering the players full access. Despite the accomplished playing it's a stretch over fourteen tracks of instrumentals to maintain full attention rather than just recline; even the UK's Crispy Horns, who started the move back to real brass in reggae, came to prominence via Love Grocer albums. There are echoes of tunes gone by here too, "African Warrior Dub" takes its melody from the Mighty Diamonds' "Bodyguard" but Eric Gaultier's breathy Roland Kirk style spoken flute is its dominant feature, "King Moses Dub" is certainly "Yabby You Sound" versioned by a clear influence on these guys, Tommy McCook, as "Plague of Horn" and the following track, "Merciful Dub" is another Vivian Jackson borrow – he gets credits.

Jimmy Radway

Dub I


Many collectors regard this, Jimmy Radway's only album, as dub's Holy Grail – only 300 were pressed before the demise of its distributor Micron. Fitting then that 30 years later Pressure Sounds' deal with Micron's Pete Weston (see the label's last release Every Mouth Must be Fed) brings a serendipitous connect to this great set. The CD has five bonus tracks whilst the vinyl is the album as it originally stood, even down to the artwork. Ivan Lloyd 'Jimmy' Radway was a true reggae auteur, maintaining a fierce independence his output was minimal with a quality equal to the best in roots. His friendship with saxophone legend Tommy McCook, who encouraged his listening to John Coltrane, gave him a unique insight into arranging for brass sections and the signature sound of his Fe-Me-Time and Capricorn labels. Intended for Dennis Brown but voiced by Errol Dunkley "Black Cinderella", inspired by the black consciousness movement, was Radway's first single and a number one hit island-wide in Jamaica. Two versions consolidated Radway's emerging reputation, Augustus Pablo's "Cinderella in Black" and "The Best Big Youth" the young DJ's second single. The ten original tracks are amongst the toughest roots recorded, especially the versions to Desmond Young's dark "Warning". Mixed in classic gimmick-free style by Errol 'E.T.' Thompson – Joe Gibbs' engineer – this peerless set is now accessible to all.


Over it / Forward Youth


Moving on from his massive "Jah Way / Speaka Box" twelve for Punch Drunk in the summer, Rob Smith, still missing in action from Smith & Mighty, swaps out Keith Hudson good time samples for Big Youth's apocalyptic acapella lifted from the toast of Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey", this "Over It" where a stolid opening of slowly collapsing juddering beats gives way to a rapid monotone bass line and scraping percussion with the haunting sound of a dubbed Theremin – or its ersatz digital cousin – running down up the house speed rhythm. On the flip, the more orthodox "Forward Youth", with what sounds like a sample lifted from Jazzbo's "Step Forward Youth", has a more recognisable dub mix with the reverbed vocal, dubbed out synths and another unforgiving dumb bass line all firing against a shifting wall of shattering breaks, the momentum is everything in the build of the track – and by the conclusion the selection of the title is clear. Rob Smith is building up to the most prolific period of his career spurred by the respectful younger pretenders of dubstep and nu dub.


Super Mantis Remixes

COMBAT 12" / mp3s

Striding multiple genres, colossus-like, Mick Harris remains largely unsung, maybe due to the sheer scope of his work and rapidity of its change. Moving from Napalm Death, a band whose staccato blow impact still rebounds today, to Scorn, formed with Justin Broadrick later to collaborate with Kevin 'The Bug' Martin in God and Technoanimal. Scorn mirrored the dark-wave of d&b, No U-turn etc, with a new post-industrial dub in a joint rejection of the pure anachronism and cul-de-sac explored by so called intelligent drum and bass. All within the realm of bass this puts Harris in prime place as a godfather of the more 'challenging' wing of dubstep, exactly why he appears on Combat. "Super Mantis" was around in its original form late last year, the tracks receives a retread here from Elemental attracted by the dark side of Harris's sound, super-syncopated beats slip and slide around surging sub bass and the changes are so fast than even if you know the patterns are there they are difficult to pin down. The flip has a more cinematic Threnody mix, contrasting icy swathes of synth with more sludgy bass stabs and crunchy percussion, more mixes to come from King Cannibal, Stormfield and Bracket amongst others.

Seventh Sense feat. Steve Swann / Gorgon Hi-Powa Title: ''

Riddim of Life / Shaka in Africa / Versions


The Jah Works label was launched by DJ Rej Forte in the quiet town of Newbury, U.K., this is its fortieth release and features ex-Dub Warrior Steve Swann on vocals for the stridently joyful "Riddim of life" with brass from Hornsman Coyote (!) and afro-style percussion from Dub Simba; Jah Rej dubs it up on the version but it's the flip to check here, "Shaka in Africa" is a tribute to the sound system warrior king, Jah Shaka, a one-drop melodica dubstrumental from Franco Agresta aka Gorgon Hi-Powa but with a processional melody that could have been lifted from a stray Salah Ragab Sun Ra tribute session riding a pulsing bass line, the darker dub is mixed by Kingsway with horns substituting for the melodica.

Thievery Corporation

Radio Retaliation


Although their influences are now broader and better integrated in the mix Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are not renowned as agents of musical change, this, their fifth album, marks relatively little shift since 1997's debut Sounds from the Thievery Hi Fi; though these days they can afford to pull in such high profile guests as sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi, on "Mandala", afro-beat star Femi Kuti, son of Fela, for "Vampires" a tirade on colonial and post-colonial genocide on the Dark Continent, and the currently hip Brazilian vocalist Seu Jorge to cool the anger with "Hare Krsna" whilst 'Godfather of Go-Go' from Washington DC – base of Thievery – the legendary Chuck Brown for the set's toughest track "The Numbers Game". Though their hometown has long been the launchpad for revolutionary sounds from the likes of Trouble Funk to Minor Threat, Thievery Corporation house calls to social activism and messages on the suspension of habeas corpus, outsourced torture, illegal wars of aggression, fuel, food, and economic crises in the more digestible vehicle of dance dub. They were the first on the block with this sub-genre and are still in front of a massive pack following in their wake.