Various ‘Evolution of Dub vol. 8. The search for new life’ 4CD Box Set (Greensleeves/VP) 4/5

Evolution-Of-Dub-vol.8The pioneering examination of the dub phenomenon is now into its eighth instalment and this time round is an infinitely deeper exploration that long-time dub heads will relish. By far the best known practitioner here is Prince (now King) Jammy whose 1986 outing ‘Computerised Dub’ is just one of the four featured albums. With a typically creative Tony McDermott cover design and with Steelie and Cleavie on hand as musicians, inventive and at times deeply melodic sounds are the order of the day as illustrated on ’32 bit chip’ with keyboard echo to the fore and the awareness of the computer revolution underway is indicated further by ‘Megabite’. At times the influence of Kraftwerk can be heard as on ‘Synchro start’ with the subtle use of keyboards and even more so on ‘Autorhythm’ which is surely a tribute to the anthemic ‘Autobahn’ piece by the German band. If the somewhat cheesy 1980s keyboards date some of the pieces, a track of the calibre of ‘Modem’ provides a classic dub album feel that has merely been updated.

Lesser known, but of great interest is ‘Juxe Boxx Dub’ by Shane C. Brown who is in fact the son of legendary engineer Errol Brown and thus son has learnt some of the old-school techniques from the old master, but has applied them judiciously in a new setting. With horns supplied by studio veterans Dean Fraser and Nambo Robinson with Chico Chin making the horn section a threesome, the atmosphere is roots with a slice of modernity. On ‘The statement’, originally a vocal piece by Morgan Heritage, the excellent use of keyboard echo and isolated rhythm guitar create an intoxicating riff, while ‘Freedom Dub’ has delightful horn echo intro and repetitive drumbeat.

The Two Friends label was inspired by the productions at Gussie Clarke’s Music Works studio and the two friends in question are Mikey Bennett and Patrick ‘Shadow’ Lindsay. Indeed the former has co-written and produced several artists on Clarke’s label including Cocoa Tea, Gregory Isaacs and Shabba Ranks. Contained herein, the album ‘Voyage into Dub’ reworks some of the hit productions of Bennett in a dub style and these include a revisiting of Dennis Brown’s ‘No more walls’, Gregory Isaacs’ ‘I’m your lover man’ and, best of all, ‘Morning Blues Dub’. As ever with takes on vocal originals, where the original song was melodic, the dub version tends to work best. However, the limitations of digital dub are also exposed here for there is simply not the same degree of subtlety that can be applied to the percussion as with acoustic instrumentation. Nevertheless, there is inventive use of special effects with a airplane sound intro to the ironically-titled ‘This dub will self-destruct in 3’53’ and throughout there are hints at an interest in soundtrack music with the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme riff re-occurring as on ‘Your dub should choose to accept it’.

Finally comes ‘Dub Clash’, a dub accompaniment to Italian roots merchant now permanently settled in Jamaica Alborosie who provides some bang up to date modern roots dub. Ironically, though, it is this album that dates from 2010 that is closest in form to the classic dub albums of the 1970s than any of the other recordings in this box set. Alborosie is a multi-instrumentalist who performs here on bass, guitar, drums and keyboards, though he does receive accompaniment from members of the Shengen Clan band. The album as a whole pays homage to the innovatory sounds of King Tubby and, in general, even old-school dub fans such as this writer have to acknowledge that modern dub interpreters are well aware of where the roots of the genre emanate from and that is good news for the listener. The inner sleeve notes for the box set are both detailed and incisive on the long-term impact that dub technique exerted upon the music world more generally and, as an interesting aside, Richard Williams predictions on the influence of the genre are truly prescient. As ever original vinyl sleeve covers are presented in slim line format.

Tim Stenhouse