Spoiler alert: 4,5 stars for a very nice, groovy, Dub-impregnated instrumental album that found its own way to us from – read and be amazed: from Helsinki / Finland. Why not; Talent can be found everywhere. Here, however, we have to do with an accumulation of it; tape and Dub Mixers complement each other ideally:
The band is called Dub Vallila and "Catacomb Beat“ (Playground Music Oy) their successful debut album. The line-up is as simple as it is effective: classic reggae horns meet the same band; just using a hang drum is a bit out of line. But why not; the slope is used in the fine arrangements just as appropriately as it is unobtrusive. The whole thing also works very well live:
Ultimately, it is still the Dub-Dragging the mixer in front of the curtain - a certain Micho Dread, who is the congenial partner on the mixing board: Very nice classic and modern effects that fit perfectly but never take on the leading role. If you like his style, you can find more of it on "Dub by Studiored".
And all this from Finland, who would have thought it. One could now be subtle and wish for a somewhat warmer overall sound; but the reviewer surprisingly doesn't want to be nitpicking and just sticks to the basslines, horn sections and Dub-Effects delight. Will probably be his summer soundtrack 2022!
Where "I Grade" is on it, quality is in it - no question: Best sound, brand "sophisticated". See the review of the recently released Zion I Kings album "Future Ocean's Echo“, which thrives on concept first and, well, riddims and effects second. But if the former is missing and the latter isn't the icing on the cake either, then it sounds like Christo's DC's newer one Dub counterpart to his "Crisis 2.0" Album that, no-na, "Crisis 2.0 in Dub“ (Honest Music) – both mixed by Laurent Alfred aka I Grade.
To make it short: "sophisticated" stands for cultivated boredom. The riddims ripple neatly along without any arc of suspense; due to a lack of concise basslines, it doesn't want to be recognizable. The same goes for the mix: although there's no stinginess with effects, it doesn't quite spark. In the sound, everything seems to be more or less equally loud/quiet, courageous fade-outs are missing, acoustic uniformity reigns, less would be more. A disappointment, since one is better from I grade Dubs used to. In comparison, the vocal album Crisis 2.0 does better: It's Christos DC's voice that ties it all together and provides direction.
The example above may not demonstrate the catchiest melody line, but it is, hands down, the best riddim on the album. And so it finally comes that in the present case I actually play the vocal tracks of the Dubvariant, especially since sound gimmicks have also been incorporated there. Which shows: Sometimes you've already delivered the best and it doesn't need any further processing - and yes, you can also overdo it with perfection.
Once upon a time there was the future Dub Orchestra - a loose musicians' collective around the Brit JT Clarke - that released the rather trivial, droning album "Echoes": Suitable at best for lounges, at worst for an elevator that catapults hip scouts to the next startup with potential hits . That was 2017; flashforward to 2022 and the ingenious idea of the Future Dub Orchestra with Mr Dubto clamp matrix together. That makes something, as you can see on the just released "Frontline Dub' (Echo Beach).
Both parties benefit from the new album: the orchestra gets thanks Dubmatix kicks his butt and he in turn broadens his musical horizons in a beneficial way: a win-win situation, so to speak. And indeed, “Frontline Dub' an entertaining work consisting of five instrumentals plus their Dubversions and as such fits perfectly into the Echo Beach catalogue: the danceable electronic version of Hall & Echo, which just barely misses reggae. Fans of this genre mix - for which there should have been a category for a long time - will love the album, no question. And indeed: So far the best Echo Beach release of the year, although we're only halfway there...
The Zion I Kings - a group of musicians and producers from the three houses Zion High Productions, I Grade Records and Luster Kings Productions - have their fifth without much notice Dub-Album released: "Future Ocean's Echo(Galactic Soul Music). The title sums up very well what this release is about: the oceans of our planet and their inhabitants. The concept is not new and also in reggae/Dub-Genre to find - like Sly & Robbie's "Underwater Dub", in which producer Blackwood greases the tracks throughout with underwater noises - but no act has ever pulled it off as stringently as the Zion I Kings. Accordingly, they go a step further here: A portion of the proceeds from streaming services are donated to the preservation of the coral reefs in St. Croix (US Virgin Islands), where the Zion I Kings record the majority of their tracks. In the service of the cause, the promo video for “Red Gold & Green Dubmarine":
Today, the Zion I Kings stand for quality - wonderful, handcrafted riddims, provided with fine bass lines and a balanced sound that cannot be faulted. alone Dub-Effects – which are used in a diverse, contemporary and generous way – fail to develop an arc of tension, to tell an acoustic story. Of course, that's mosern at the highest level, because what's left is still a very good one Dub-Album that can be recommended without reservation.
Please forgive me if this review features an album that was released in 2020. I myself just recently stumbled across this and am fascinated by it; it is of breathtaking musical brilliance, offers wonderfully extensive, consistently sophisticated arrangements and 1A sound quality. I say it openly: Dub Boat, a quintet from America's East Coast, sometimes sound like a symphony orchestra - every note on their untitled, self-published one debuts testifies to virtuoso ability - this also applies to the work of the sound engineer(s) involved. Mind you: we are still in the reggae genre, and there close to Dub-Area. Okay, let's call it instrumentals:
You can of course wear yourself out with such a work – because the whole thing has very little to do with the familiar, heavy riddims of Jamaican provenance. If you're looking for that typical earthy vibe that seems to be built on blood, sweat and tears, you won't find it here. It's reggae as reggae as it could be. Of course, the bass gets involved in a few repeated sequences of notes - but only to break out of it again and follow the sophisticated arrangements. Drums, guitar, keys and trumpet/flugelhorn are in no way inferior and produce together... well, what actually? Reggae goes Jazz-Rock-Funk'n'Soul goes Tamtam? Reggae as stadium rock or symphonic open-air concert? Chris Blackwell meets Jim Steinman meets Clive Hunt? Elevator music or breathtaking performance?
I suggest taking your time and letting the music sink in. There is a lot to discover, unforeseen musical surprises and one or the other Dub-Effect. Associations and classification are difficult – would Dub Spencer & Trance Hill would they sound like this if they were Americans and recorded Hollywood soundtracks full-time? Or maybe Marcus Urani's Groundation sans Harrison Stafford, freshly strengthened and ironed out?
An album - or rather: a review that raises more questions than answers. As always, I advise dealing with such phenomena from the fringes of the reggae universe - it could be worth it.
Sometimes they just appear like that - without notice, without warning. albums by unknown acts with cover artwork that is rather unusual for the reggae genre; the reviewer is unfortunately inclined to let such parts pass unheard in the streaming universe. Of course, you should never do that, as I did on Super Natural Sound's "Dub Tape Volume 1(Super Natural Sound) can demonstrate.
First thought: woah… Lee Perry's Black Ark studio? Already the first track makes it clear what's going on: Honest, handmade music, provided with instruments like in the olden days. That it goes so far that tapes, appropriate recording machines and various sound gadgets such as self-made sirens are used, I only find out later in the exchange with Aaron Sprague, the man behind Super Natural Sound.
“ Lee Scratch Perry was a big influence on my approach to working in the traditional style on tape with analogue equipment. My first release was actually a track I wrote and produced with Lee Perry in 2020. As the bass player for the New York roots reggae band Mosaic Foundation, I played a show with Perry and was lucky enough to record the song "Garvey Say" with him. I've been so influenced by Lee's style, the Black Ark sound and his spiritual approach that I'm trying to capture this analog one Dub- to keep the tradition alive.”
Aaron's present debut "Dub Tapes Volume 1” under the moniker Super Natural Sound is a collection of Dubs created in the past year. Contrary to the original intention of making timeless music, the instrumental recordings are sparsely sown Dub-Effects rooted entirely in the sound of the 70s. Joining forces here are Ranking Joe with the only vocal track and a wonderful melodica and bongo duo from Japan: Aki Mittoo and Goja Bongos. Mittoo's euphonious melodica is very different from the melody and playing style of an Addis Pablo or an Art-X; The instrument is wonderfully embedded in the mix and never intrusive.
There are also two drummers from Los Angeles and Israel, with the latter providing an extra portion of punch and slightly lifting the recordings towards the 1980s. Sprague does the rest of the instrumentation himself, completing a blend of many cultures and styles brought together, as he puts it, "by a love of reggae."
"Dub Tapes Volume 1” is intended to be just the first of many more albums from Super Natural Sound; ready-recorded vocal tracks, which will be presented by various female singers, are already waiting for the release. "Working with the different musicians drives me and always allows me to create something new," says Aaron Sprague. “I make sure that Super Natural Sound's music is positive, full of love and good vibes. The analog recording technology is helpful here and helps to preserve these vibes in the best possible way. After all, music is medicine, and I also support the healing effect with sounds for which I build my own instruments. All my equipment, which is older than me - from the 60s, 70s and 80s - plays a big role in this. I love the sound of that time and I want to spread it with my work; But above all I want to make music that I want to hear myself. The "Dub Tapes Volume 1" is just the beginning - the Super Natural Sound studio still has a lot up its sleeve."
There is nothing to add; the man knows what he is doing and what he wants to achieve with it. Respect for the handmade music based on an old recipe and also for the fact that he doesn't just go through the whole thing as an ego trip - quite the opposite: New York meets Japan meets California meets Israel, and it still sounds like a piece. LSP lives on - in all the musicians he inspired. "Dub Tapes Volume 1” bears witness to this.
After a "Punk reggae party' often comes the rude awakening: 'Armagideon Time (Remixes)(Echo Beach) is another Seanie T and Al collaboration, according to the coverdubb. The reviewer rejoices that this can only be a good thing - until he discovers that Rob Smith has his ice-cold fingers in the pie again on some tracks. Well... where there is light, there is shadow.
Like "Punky Reggae Party," Seanie T's version of "Armagideon Time" was first featured on Lee Grove's "dance a Dub" listen; Now the re-recording of the Studio One/Willie Williams classic on the Real Rock riddim is available as a remix album. Aldubb delivers five wonderful mixed versions - including three Dubs and the vocal track that Seanie T shines on. The whole thing with excellent band backing that comes very close to the original - including the typical snare roll and the prominent Real Rock trombone:
So the album is a pleasure, until track 6, when Rob Smith aka RSD strikes: The first glaringly annoying kindergarten keyboards, the sterile, staccato-like synth bassline and the flying cymbal reveal the whole dilemma. Where the computer rules, the vibe fades away (here, too, exceptions prove the rule). It makes you wonder why the Echo Beach label keeps coming back to Rob Smith when it comes to something dance-oriented. His style isn't even up-to-date anymore, others can do that better and more contemporary, see Lee Groves & Co. There is nothing more to say about this:
So how do you rate this remix album? Aldubb and Seanie T just missed five stars, Rob Smith "was always trying". All in all...
If then such a riddim album exclusively with instrumentals or Dubs is equipped, the difference between good and bad becomes even clearer. Mickey Dread's 1982'sJungle signal"-Theme for the British TV documentary "Deep roots music' - immortalized in several majestic versions on the album of the same name - is arguably one of the best releases of its kind (although, admittedly, there are others). Dubversions can be heard).
As a negative counterweight I would like to mention Adrian Donsome Hanson's "Freedom Sound Riddim (Dub mixing)". The pale, monotonously flat riddim just doesn't cut it – even if Mr. Hanson thinks it's worth a 14 track album. Ultimately, the secret of its success has to be a rich, catchy riddim that offers new insights layer after layer – on the aforementioned “Junge Signal” this works splendidly; then you don't even need big ones Dub-Effects.
So how's Seanie doing T/Aldubb/Rob Smiths' new "Punky Reggae Party (Remixes)"-Release (Echo Beach)? Bob Marley's original version will probably be hard to top: a killer riddim with a lot of drive behind it. Interestingly, a completely atypical-sounding Lee Perry production for which Island Records is more likely to be responsible - especially since the track was released there as the B-side of the "Jamming" 7″ and 12″. LSP's original version may have sounded very different:
But back to the new material, to the re-recording with Seanie T on the mic. First heard on Lee Grove's "Dance A Dub"-Album as a brisk dance groove with more than convincing vocals, followed by one more in keeping with the Island Records original Dubversion on the "Dub for Fashion 1"-Samplers. The latter comes from Aldubb, who now presents them in vocal, extended, riddim-instrumental and whatever versions. You can't kill a good riddim, especially when you're like Aldubb remains relatively close to the original. Not even the notorious, monotonous arrangements by Rob Smith, who again uses the same sounds in his versions, manage to do that. Then there's another one as compensation Dub-Mix by Umberto Echo, who by far has the most beautiful sound from Aldubb's recording tickles out:
Whether the "Punky Reggae Party" remixes are about Aldubb vs. Rob Smith, in other words: it's a one or two riddim album, let the listener decide. I stick to a clear 1-0 for Aldubb's Riddim; but the winner's trophy goes to Umberto Echo.
In view of the currently meager supply of fresh Dub-Adventures are happy when a new, good album - or rather a 5 track EP - is released. Ras Sparrow, a Venezuelan who is not particularly well-known in this country, has dedicated himself to Roots Reggae as a singer/producer/engineer and brings with him "Dub in Stone“ (Ras Sparrow Records) his first full-fledged Dub-Release out. The promotion is done without further ado by an animated video for “Atlantis Rising Dub"
Multi-instrumentalist Ras Sparrow, torn between digital and analog sounds on previous releases, features "Dub in Stone” with fine, hand-made roots riddims, mostly recorded live by himself. The result can be heard: bass drum and rimshot harmonize perfectly in the mix and are the basis for four wonderfully dynamically mixed one drops - and a successful stepper for the friends of the 4-on-the-floor:
The classic arrangements of the 5 tracks are consistently successful: boredom or the in Dubs occasionally feared emptiness don't stand a chance here - the use of lead instruments like a (not annoying) melodica or a guitar makes sure of that. A solid one does the rest Dub-Mix – which isn't the greatest artistic hit, but also doesn't – as we've unfortunately heard more often lately – compulsively make you look like King Tubby or Scientist. The brevity of the release was also a surprisingly pleasant experience: Compared to the glutted sales monsters, which are equipped with sagging, slow-moving goods and a certain yawning factor, the "Dub in Stone" EP is refreshingly entertaining and makes you want more - just like in the good old vinyl days. So off to the playlist!
Spoilers: "Night Nurse Dub“ (TABOU1) is not that Dub-Counterpart to Gregory Isaacs' already 40 (!) year old masterpiece „Night Nurse“ – even if the cover of the new release would have us believe that at first glance. Would have been a medium sensation in Reggaeland, if suddenly one Dubversion of the 1982 album would have surfaced. Today we can only guess how it would sound, but probably something like Godwin Lodge's extended mix of Material Man (B-side of the Night Nurse 10"):
Back to the new “Night Nurse Dub“: As in the original, the (today's remnants of) the Roots Radics recorded all the riddims here as well – namely a second time in the year 2000, together with other tracks from Isaacs' extensive catalogue. The intention was a tribute album, which, however, should not manifest itself until a few years later. Style Scott was quicker, grabbing the tapes of the instrumentals and releasing them on his own Lion & Roots label in 2001 as Style Scott & Flabba Holt: Nurse in Dub" brought out. I remember that there was a lot of fuss about this and there was even talk of theft. However, these tapes were recorded at On-U Sound Studios by Dub Syndicate's live keyboardist and sample launcher Alon Adiri mixed it - and it was shockingly lame. With Dub Syndicate recordings had precious little to do with these tracks; Adrian Sherwood himself was audibly not involved. The result was a boring, sparsely instrumented, and somewhat empty-sounding “Dub-Album" with few effective effects or samples - but with a disturbingly dominant bass drum:
Fast forward to 2003: the tribute album is finished and will be released under the title "We Sing Gregory“. Singers like Luciano, Don Carlos, Max Romeo, Sugar Minott, Bunny Rugs and last but not least Gregory Isaacs himself interpret the Cool Ruler classics, including the entire Night Nurse album. The result is a somewhat dull-sounding album mixed by Gaylord Bravo that doesn't want to ignite - by no means surprising, as Isaac's singing style and diction are unique and defy any new interpretation.
In 2018 there was an attempt to digitally distribute this album as "We Sing Gregory (Deluxe Remix Edition)": The 34-track mega pack includes numerous disco mixes mixed by Dartanyan Winston plus the previously released Gaylord Bravo mixes. This could have been a full album - both in terms of sound and playing time. In the end it was the dull sound again and the unexciting new mixes that weren't mastered in line with the older mixes. The part can be included in your audio library, but there is no good reason for it.
Which brings us finally to the year 2022 and the actual subject of this review. They are still the instrumental recordings from 2000 and the 2003 versions with vocals, here by Dartanyan Winston as a pure Dubs mixed. Has anything improved? No, it's still those sluggish, muffled-sounding recordings* – probably better than Alon Adiri's dreary 2001 mixes and certainly have more effects, but if it doesn't groove, then it doesn't groove. Of course, the album doesn't have it easy either, because it will always be compared with the 1982 original - and on this Rubadub / Lovers Rock milestone is hard to beat: Gregory Isaacs and the Roots Radics are unbeatable at their best.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
*This review is based on the stream from bandcamp.com, which - even if you listen to it through a good sound system - leaves a lot to be desired in terms of sound.