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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dub Review - March 2008

Black Roots

In Session


No relationship to the more familiar Sugar Minott organisation of the same name,

Black Roots were formed in Bristol in the late 70s producing their self-titled debut in 1982 followed by The Front Line in 1984 both on their own Nubian label. This set includes their two Peel BBC sessions along with six other earlier tracks recorded between 1979 and 1980 and follows the reissue of their first two albums by Makasound combined as On the Frontline in 2004. The Beeb's studios in London's maida Vale were in full steam at the time and very much like other UK reggae acts of the period Black Roots supported touring acts from Jamaica so when they cut their tunes in the sessions their experience showed. Augmented by an excellent the horn section of Rico Rodriguez, Dick Cuthell and Ruddi Hymes standout tracks are covers from the first two albums, including "Tribal War" (not the Little Roy tune) and "What Them A Do" plus the four 12 inch cuts included as a bonus amongst which is the great "Bristol Rock". Like many other UK bands of the era early crossover promise fizzled out in the face of the mainstream juggernaut, but as proficient and exciting as either Aswad or Steel Pulse and equally identifiable as a product of the UK Black Roots were a key part of the country's under-exposed reggae history.

Cultural Roots

Hell Go A Pop


Greensleeves continues their 30th Anniversary reissue programme with the release of this often overlooked album from 1984 from Cultural Roots, a rare vocal quartet amongst Jamaica's predominant harmony trios. Maybe this set's reputation suffered as at the time of its appearance as DJs and the harder dancehall style was in ascendance. Following up Rub-A-Dub, Drift Away From Evil and Revolutionary Sounds, all produced by Donovan Germain this set was produced by Henry "Junjo" Lawes and recorded and mixed by Soldgie with the Roots Radics at Channel One, there are no musician credits but it's a clearly less heavyweight sound than that squeezed out by Scientist and is more reminiscent of Sly & Robbie's prevailing rhythms at Taxi Records. This sits nicely with the work of the Wailing Souls and the Tamlins for the same period. The two strongest tunes on the album are the title track, a dancehall favourite "Love Feelings", versioning John Holt's "Police In Helicopter", both tracks are here dubwise in their extended 12" mixes.


Atari-Ska L'Atakk


Dubmood is a 'chip-music' artist from Gothenburg now operating out of Marseille with over 300 different pieces composed on Amiga, PC, Atari ST and Gameboy for a large number of key generators, crack intros, demos, installers, chip-music disks, 8bit console album-compilations in 2004. The EP gets in a rush with the opener, a version of the Skatalites classic "(Theme from) Exodus" from the movie of the same name, followed by cover of the Liberators "Kick de Bucket". The version of The Maytals' "Pressure Drop" is enough to induce hypertension in serious Clash fans (which Clash fans are not serious?) as it's the Toots soul scorcher done over inna Fisher Price style. But the most seriously deranged track here is the highly addictive "VodSka-Dance", apparently featuring some popular Russian folk tune that buzzes uncontrollably around your head long after the music dies. The final track, the catchily titled "Dbug CD197", is a collaboration with chip tunes roots rocker GOTO 80. OK Jim, its not dub as we know it, but the strain is mutating rapidly. Dubmood is running the Marseille Micro:HQ together with Gameboy-musician Confipop, organising workshops, seminars and concerts dedicated to chip music with the French organisation La Cyber Nostra, and for later this year co-ordinating Europe's biggest chip music-event: The Data Airlines Festival.

I Dub New York Sound System

I Dub New York


I DUB NEW YORK (IDNY) seems to be a loosely based sound system conglomerate based in the city, coming together at Wackies Studio in the Bronx for arranging, producing and mixing this album; whilst touched by the hands of Lloyd 'Bullwackie' Barnes himself both as artist and engineer the tunes here are further 'out there' in leftfield compared to the output of the studio's house imprint, now at its highest height for visibility and sales in its nearly thirty year history thanks to the patronage of Berlin's Rhythm & Sound axis.

Lloyd Barnes invokes his Chosen Brothers persona for two vocals "Fighting for a Cause" and "Rise Up", the former has a muffled slo-mo hydraulic thump of a rhythm from a spaced two note repeating bass line while at the top end Daniel Carter's airy alto sax is free to float, its made for dubbing which is exactly what happens with the ensuing "Fighting Dubwise". "Rise Up" and its version "Macchina Della Canapa" is more insistently mid tempo to match the upful lyric delivered in a Curtis Mayfield on mogadon style, but it's the dub that provides the track's rationale with beautifully restrained plangent guitar work from Carolyn 'Honeychild' Coleman. Black Redemption's Ras Kush guests on "Global Warning" but the standout is "Zatoichi Dub" featuring Doug Principato here claiming the title of the Grand Pepper of Reality whose specialism is banjo-like riffing on the shamisen, sounding like it had travelled West detouring in through the Appalachians!


Underground Wobble


HighTone can best be described as a continually evolving dub band having taken on board numerous influences over their ten year plus existence, they started out as a dub band and still are a dub band albeit a long way from their starting point. They have had a dual trajectory over the past few years, one in their hybrid experiments with acts as diverse as China's Wang Lei or the even deeper dubbier Improvisators back in France plus their own elliptical orbit visiting electro, breaks, hip hop and industrial whilst revisiting their dub roots on a regular basis. And so it is with this latest set, weighing in at fifteen tracks and 72 minutes an edit down to traditional vinyl album length would have left a number of these cuts able to claim more attention. Although the opening "Understellar" submits to the obligatory dubstep references and the following "Freakency" veers between d'n'b and sludgy breaks compensations come later when their dub pedigrees surface on "Glowing Fire" and "Depth in the Middle", and the growing influences of North Africa particularly on "Growing Fast". The effect is in search of cinema, if David Lynch re-mixed Dune these boys from Lyons would be right for the job.

Karl Masters & Joe Higgs

Freedom Journey / Journey to Freedom

Joe Higgs

Let Us Do Something / Instrumental

Coinciding with the recent release of the peerless Life Of Contradiction album is the revival of two rare seven inches from he early seventies on Joe Higgs' own Elevation imprint, replicating Joe's original label artwork in the fashion of Pressure Sounds series of vinyl revivals. "Let Us Do Something" is a typical Joe Higgs tune, with inspirational lyrics musing on the consequences on inaction faced with social injustice, and whilst JB was bashing this sentiment out across funk grooves from Washington to L.A. in Jamaica the tendency was towards a lazier osmosis for messages of change. "Freedom Journey" is the accompanying instrumental take on the tune, it's all brooding atmosphere, an eco-fuelled nyabinghi drive initially swathed in Hammond before a magisterially relaxed trombone navigates the way through to a percussion reprise for the outro and the organ swashes up against the rhythm. The version of "Freedom Journey" dispenses with the 'bone and leaves the groove to find its way home, whilst the instrumental of the vocal can only be described as prosaic compared to its radically lush offspring.

Pama International

Love Filled Dub Band


Last year this band was the first to sign to Trojan Records for 30 years. I assume that was before Trojan, and its parent company Sanctuary, were swallowed up by one of the three or four corporate Death Stars of music, Universal. Nothing is on the release horizon from Trojan, gone from glut to famine, but this lot has been slotted on to the ersatz sub-label, the embarrassingly named Rockers Revolt. Far from revolt, and despite what the band may think, this appears like a thinly veiled attempt to weigh in on the current UK vogue for reggae-lite a la Lily Allen – but at least Lily snagged some heavyweight remixes. Here both the sonics and lyrics are perfunctory and prosaic, best exemplified by the modern protest by numbers like "Throwaway Society" or "Highrise" where DJ Michie One does her best on this unashamed borrow of the rhythm of "Cherry Oh Baby". The aim is obviously to pick up from all the undelivered ideas left at the roadside by 2 Tone and the early 80s UK ska fetish and this affair is at its best when paying homage to the Dragonaires or the Upsetters on "Orgon Will Follow".

Rod Taylor

Where Is Your Love Mankind


Rod Taylor is one of those late roots artists whose work was almost a distillation of all that youthman righteousness that bubbled up to the end of the seventies, in his sets a couple of sweet lovers tunes would normally balance the overriding tones of redemption, resentment and spiritual rebellion. Produced by Henry Junjo Lawes and recorded at Channel One and mixed by Scientist down at Tubbys studio the musicians here are the earlier incarnation of the Roots Radics with heavyweight drummer Carlton 'Santa' Davis holding the tuffest sticks in the business and responsible for creation of the monumental signature sound of the house band that ruled reggae through the early eighties, Sly Dunbar and Style Scott came in his sizable wake. It's a fuller sound than the later Radics with regular organ curlicues from Ansel Collins and Steely wrapped around the rhythm, the guitars of Sowell and Bingy Bunny are allowed more flourish than later work where drum and bass dominated the feel of the track. Where Is You Love Mankind followed 1979's If Jah Should Come Now released on Adrian Sherwood's Hitrun label and Keith Stone's Daddy Kool - indicating that Taylor was aligned to the punk axis alongside his contemporaries Dr.Alimantado and Tapper Zukie, its probably one of the last great classics of the roots era.

Various Artists

This is Lovers Rock


It would be tempting to think that the time for Lovers Rock has come at last, what with the regular stream of releases featuring the music over the last two years, but to be realistic this was always a niche music because most people will just never get it. Although the first example of UK Lovers Rock was produced smack in the middle of the roots boon in 1975 – Lloydie Coxsone's production of Louisa Marks' "Caught You in a Lie", a version of the Robert Parker soul classic – the sub-genre only emerged later in the decade with the involvement of London based producers like Leonard Chin, Dennis Bovell, the Browns Dennis and Castro, Neil Fraser and Clem Bushay recognising the market. That market was created by the movement of roots music to an increasingly conscious or militant stance leaving vacuum to be occupied by a new music that appealed to girls and young women, then the core of any pop audience. Filtering the then popular sweeter Philly soul sounds through a heavy roots backdrop with the bass intact spelt success on the streets and in the dance. Fascinating to look back and find the socio-anthropological nuances offered, as on this great selection there's Brown Sugar's "I'm in Love with a Dreadlocks" followed directly by Sister Love's "Goodbye Little Man", or Keith Douglas' PC gagging "I Specialise in Good Girls" running into a tune that could only now be interpreted as the height of sarcasm Deborah Glasgowe's "Knight in Shining Armour". An innocent antidote to the turgidity of much of today's music.