Music for the Weekend #006 — Highly Dub(IO)us
I hate Reggae!
Once in a while I say this out loud and I just have to wait a few seconds for reactions. I really hate it. I can’t take it, I never liked it. I have never been nor intend to go to Jamaica and one day I arrived in Essaouira from where I ran away two hours after realizing that it was full of little shops selling Bob Marley t-ees. But the most incredible thing is that I love Dub. And it’s not that unbelievable, Reggae is the music that Jamaica decided to play on the way to promised Ethiopia while Dub is the sound that survived when that Africa, in a compact cloud of smoke, took the wrong turn and landed on the Moon.
Dub is the domain of two musical demigods: the Delay and the Echo, the deformation of time through the removal of its most important elements and as a formula it was reused for much more than producing more “spacious” versions of the originals in cause. It is one of the cases in which the template creates a new document itself. And this is how the first choice of this week’s M4we is Mute Beat, a Japanese brass band that masterfully applies Dub techniques to their horn ensemble. Later on, the choice of BudNubac (a project by Robin Taylor-Firth, which I’ve followed from Nightmares on Wax to Olive) comes with the same criterion when applying these same principles to the Cuban sounds of Salsa, Guaracha and Pachanga.
Possibly the origin of the word is in the creation of special versions cut in acetate for use by DJs of sound systems in Kingston, unique dubplates that no one else had. But in search for an etymology clues are found in the use of a more “heated” and sexual vernacular, such as in the title Dub the Pum Pum (this pum pum sung by The Silvertones is Jamaican slang for female genitalia).
Admired by punks at the same time as disco-sound producers, Dub did not remain however in those distant times, continuing to raise legions of followers, such as the “Vienna school” that brought us so much joy every time we heard Kruder & Dorfmeister or Tosca. Even in Portugal, there was an affiliation with the Dub Club with some of its honorary members included in my choice, kudos to Francisco Rebelo, João Gomes and Tiago Santos but also to Miguel Guia and Tó Ricciardi and especially to Fernando Nabais for the Invisible Man project in which he invited me to vocalize the Dub version of the track No Cais do Sodré. I’ll leave some clues to what is being produced in places that we do not normally relate to Dub, like Texas where the Khruangbin trio recently decided to make a whole new version of a previous LP inviting Jamaican producer Scientist.
What you hear in this musical choice are kaleidoscopic montages that re-present motifs from the originals but in a constant flux of change and juxtaposition because Dub is music of drums and bass, where rhythmic sections conjure up a spatial vastness where any other element ends up shining like if it were a shining shooting star. So let us make a solemn bow to some of the greats in the style’s firmament: Lee “Scratch” Perry, Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock and Bunny Lee, who immersed in a night-time stupor infused with isopropyl alcohol whenever the rhum ran out, were the great inventors of this true Afrofuturistic soundtrack.
Have an offbeat spacey weekend.