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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dub Review - November 2007

Dennis Alcapone
Forever Version (Deluxe Edition)
In 1971 at the time of Forever Version's first release, Jamaica's number one DeeJay ruler was Daddy U Roy with versions galore of Duke Reid's Treasure Isle rock steady hits. Dennis Alcapone had skilled up his DJ persona courtesy on the El Paso sound system which provided the title of his first single; 'El Paso" was voiced for Clement Dodd at Studio One using Jackie Mittoo's instrumental "Wire Higher". Although there were stylistic overlaps with earlier foundation DeeJays, Dennis Alcapone developed his own idiosyncratic vocal trademark "whoops" and "yeah, yeah, yeahs" that distinguished his delivery and, from all his output, including productions from Lee Perry, Keith Hudson, Joe Gibbs and Bunny Lee amongst many others, its these Studio One side that remain the work by which he is most fondly remember. Twelve cuts from the original set are enhanced with the addition six bonus tracks, most notably the epic nine minute mix of Carlton & the Shoes' yearning "Love Me Forever" where the vocal is followed by a fluent and restrained wah wah guitar before Dennis enters at the six minute mark assuming the cupid role with a toast reinforcing the lyrical entreaties of the song, Delroy Wilson's "Trying To Conquer Me" assumes a much darker tone with a growling intro and Dennis punctuating the moody vocal in an old school style that sadly was soon to evaporate. Another of those essential top ten DeeJay albums that still resonates if only for providing a rich vein of samples.

The Bug feat. Warrior Queen
Poison Dart / remixes
The assassin bug is a predatory insect that injects poison into its prey's body designed to dissolve it into juices to be sucked up as nutrient. And so Kevin Martin launches the stuttering lurch of a rhythm probe that is "Poison Dart" with a globalised mission to soak up the best of what the Miami's South Rakkas Crew, Vienna's Stereotyp, London's Skream and Tokyo's Baku have to offer. Not surprisingly the South Rakkas Crew step up the pace and revisit the scene of their criminal "Clappas" riddim whilst Skream can resist remaking a track into an identi-dubstep that's already has the dubstep set convinced, instantly identifiable. But its Baku coming out on top as he drags in Flowdan's chat on the rhythm "Stampin" for a clashed-up megamix and Stereotyp who sweetens up Warrior Queen's vocals whilst increasing the weight of the bass to stomach churning levels.

Two Sevens Clash (30th Anniversary Edition)
Something of a lost opportunity, if you are going to design a reissue into book format and saddle it a title that stokes up expectations then the goods must be delivered. The original album is probably Culture's best known if not best, that accolade must go to Africa Stands Alone, and it's probably the one laying around in the record collection of many an ageing punk. What's missing here is a decent re-master, also absent is "Informer" Joe Hill's DJ version of "See Them A Come" and unforgivably there's no "Prophesy Reveal" the apocalyptic DJ version of "Two Sevens Clash by DJ Bojangles and finally greater care could have been taken on the package. On the plus side there's a 12" of "See Dem A Come" with DJ Prince Weedy and two I Roy versions within extended mixes, "Natty Dread Taking Over" and "I'm Not Ashamed", and also included is the dub version to the latter which finds Errol Thompson in top form with the mix ranking amongst his best and most inventive as ghostly string sections hang around the dub like a sonic mist.

Foundation Bit
The only product so far from Leipzig's Disrupt has been the "Tempo" rhythm mutant, the seriously deranged "Tubby ROM Module", unleashed on a 12" earlier this year. Most of the ten tracks here consist of older tunes first aired via the Jahtari net label from "Roots Matrix", "Jah Bit Invasion" and many net only 7s accessed via www.jahtari.org , but here they are mainly re-worked and improved versions with the addition of two new and previously unreleased tracks, "True Creators" and "Selassie I Continually". Most instructive track here is "Red, Gold & Green" a version to the Studio One Sound Dimension instrumental and dub "Drum Song", behind their regeneration of this version is a rigorous application of a published dub manifesto, at its core the creation of tension and unpredictability and the subsequent inevitable release of tension. A previous net only EP on this rhythm was entitled "Drum Song Source Code" with collaborator contributions splaying off in all directions but collectively conforming to the manifesto's demands. Although the acknowledged trigger for Jahtari was the Rhythm & Sound boys from Berlin proving that new warm dubwise sounds could be generated digitally, this East German reaction is an altogether ruffer manifestation. All cuts have been mastered into the netherworld of the deep bottom end by Duplates + Mastering and promised to be available in a series of vinyl 10" plates soon.

International Observer
Its some six years since the release of Seen the debut album from Tom Bailey, exiled in Aotearoa/New Zealand as the International Observer. In that time he has continued to search for a perfected dubwise electronica – in common with a growing cadre of likeminded global dubheads. New Zealand has both the musical and weather climates to nourish dubwise exploration as evidenced by the disproportionate number of reggae acts to emerge from there over the years; in common with Fat Freddy's Drop, Skinny Jim, Katchafire and the newer waves of roots International Observers tunes are squeezed out smooth with not much sign of reality intrusion other than the waves lapping on the shore through the first few tracks of well crafted hazy dub – plenty of melodica and sampled horns in evidence. The ganja clouds part with "At the Coronation" sampling Young Tiger's calypso reportage of 1953 and "Cellphone Dub" holds a horn line reminiscent of a truncated version of Johnny Clarke's "None Shall Escape the Judgement" rhythm; but by the time we find "Dirty Harry" isn't a version of the old Glen Brown tune but another sample driven piece and the final track "War Museum Memorial Piece" could not be more aptly titled I become convinced that its time for Bailey to start working with some real live vocalists and DJs or drift off into those great shopping malls and corporate reception areas that have truly become the home of today's ambient music.

Mikey Dread
World War III
This 1981 album is re-issued as part of Mikey Dread's collaboration with Ernie B, the West Coast's main reggae retailer and distributor, and is incredibly the last full album production from the DJ and engineer who did so much to 'crossover' the sound of reggae and dub in the late seventies and early eighties. Consisting of a mix of dancehall tunes with singer and DJ in combination style, dubs, DJ chats and extended discomixes the original tracklist has six of the album or contemporary dubs added as bonus to distinguish the release from earlier 'bootlegs'. It's the Roots Radics in strict charge of the 'walk and skank rhythms' and singers Ed Fitzroy, Earl 16 and the rich baritone of Congoman Watty Burnett on vocal duties; as might be expected there are tape rewinds, female vocal intros and surprises in the mix through the set which is mixed and dubbed out by Scientist and Michael "Mikey Dread" Campbell himself. Highlights are "The Jumping Master", which has every trick Mikey Dread ever pulled crammed into its five minutes, the shift phasing of the nyahbinghi dub break on "Israel (12 Tribe) Stylee" and "Mental Slavery" that maintains an off-key guitar downstroke throughout the mix.

Fear No One / Hear Youts
Due to his genre-free suspension its almost entirely believable that Texan Jason Mundo lists Coldplay and Travis amongst his voluminous MySpace 'musical interests', but in the live sets he played recently in the UK it was Meatbeat Manifesto's "Radio Babylon", Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" and Cutty Ranks "The Stopper" that came in for the Dub Assembly remix action. This is his seventh dubplate in just around twelve months and by stamping his dub credentials across the first two of those he continues to defy expectations with every release, although bass is the key. The rebel stances in these new tunes are heightened by what sound like crackling old school techno samples and what lifts the tunes above revisionist criticism is that they are built purely for the dance. Along with Disrupt (see above) Mundo is responsible for breathing new life into the dub scene whilst making regular inroads into dubstep's refreshingly open frameworks and kicking over the traces of any hint of a strict 2step/UK garage background.

Echo Ranks / Jah Marnyah
Technology Pts. I & II / Versions
An international dub axis comes together for this new 10" piece produced by Zion Train's Neil Perch out of his Cologne studio. On main duties vocal is Echo Ranks Leicester based singer and DeeJay who goes out with both the city's Vibronics crew and Leeds based Iration Steppers, on the singjay version is Jah Marnyah out of Montserrat but also based in Leicester, on bass is BDF's (Basque Dub Foundation) Iñaki Yarritu, London based but originally from Spain's Basque country and dubbing it all up is Italian Simone Lombardi aka Dub Terror who has been developing his skills around the nu roots circuit for the past few years and breaks out on this release as one of the leading engineers on the scene – especially with the bleak groan of a dubstep version he conjures from the genuine half step reggae rhythm and on the melodica dub he uses subtlety and restraint rather than bagsful of echo, reverb and efx. As for the seemingly Luddite message of the song, just as we are being told that technology is the answer by the likes of Bush perhaps contrarian views require exploration.

Bim Sherman
Tribulation (Down In Jamdown 1974-1979)
A few years ago a comprehensive reissue programme of Bim Sherman's back catalogue was brought to a halt by the demise of the German distributor EFA, so its good news that Bim's old friend from On U Sound days, Pete Holdsworth of Pressure Sounds, is dealing with Bim's family in arranging this excellent collection sourced from the singer's own Jamaican labels, Scorpio, Sun Dew and Red Sea. Opening the set is "Ital West" an early version of a tune Bim was later to re-record as "World of Dispensation" followed by a crisp Tubby's dub with pumping horn section, "Love Forever" continues in the same style but the vocal has harmonies and is followed by a Jah Woosh DJ take "Love in the Ghetto" and then the dubwise version. "Love Forever" was recorded by Ari Up and the New Age Steppers as was. "Weak Heart Men" here in its earlier incarnation as "My Whole World". The vocal and dub versions of "Tribulation" and "My Whole World" that prefaced this set as 7" releases are in fact remixed alternate versions from the takes on the album as if to verify Bim's tendency - as was common back in the day for Jamaican artists as a matter of economics rather than creative choice - of recycling proven tunes or rhythms as different songs or versions for new labels or later times.