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on 16 July 2009
Just finished reading Michael E Veal's fantastic Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. What is so impressive is how many perspectives Veal manages to approach the subject from in such a relatively short space (338pp) i.e the social, political, aesthetic, technical, religious, historical, economic and cultural. Along the way contextualising dub in relation to the theories of, among others, Jameson, Deleuze & Barthes. Among the most interesting ideas Veal suggests are dub's fragmented narratives as a response to the collective Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of the African diaspora and dub's privileging of space and absence providing a meditative insight into the divine. I particularly enjoyed the comparison between dub and classical Japanese music by way of wabi-sabi and Zen Buddhism. This may all make the book appear rather dry and academic and though it is certainly is both academic and scholarly in the best sense of the terms it is also clearly written by a fan and enthusiast (also in the best sense of the terms) meaning that as well as being intellectual and thorough it is always interesting and engaging. Along with the theories and histories of dub and it's influence on other genres you get the low-down on all the leading players such as King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Lee 'Scratch' Perry. My only criticism is an underplaying of the Jamaican/NYC connection. I don't feel it is an exaggeration to state that the birth of Hip Hop resulted directly from the recontextualization of the Jamaican Dub format - outdoor Sound System, DJ Toasting (Rapping) and the stripping down of records to their essential of drum and bass elements - to NYC and applied to funk as opposed to reggae by Jamaican emerge Kool DJ Herc in the late 70's. House and garage (emerging form Chicago as well as NYC) where also born of stripping down to the essentials of drum and bass of, in this case, disco records. Francois Kevorkian has attributed Larry Levan, resident of the legendary Paradise Garage, of bringing the dub sensibility to disco. By somewhat underplaying this vital connection I feel dubs influence may have been done a slight disservice especially when there is quite a lot about such less paradigm shifting genres such as trip hop and minimal house which are really just sub genres. This aside, Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae is still, along with Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, the most informative and engaging book about music that I have ever read and I highly recommend that you do too if you have any interest in, not only dub but, hip-hop, house, d'n'b, grime, dubstep or whatever - none would exist but for dub.
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VINE VOICEon 17 January 2008
At last... a book about dub...I was keen to get into this one..
It's pretty much an academic "paper" really with a dazzling number of references scattered throughout.. so I found that a bit you lose the plot if you go to the notes section each time.
What is frustrating is that the author writes about particular "effects" and techniques used on tracks...but it's not very easy to grasp some of this without having the music to listen to.
You are pre-warned that due to copyright was impossible to have an accompanying CD which would have made the whole thing a lot easier to get your head around.
I'm sure someone could make a great documentary ...which would put it all much more "In The Light" (Cheers Mr Andy!!) the book has various quotes from the leading names and there is the usual debate about who did it first...but the motives behind it are interesting and also the fact that much of the dub material was produced on the fly... by experimentation and the use of sound recording, manipulation and distortion etc.
What is also good about the book is that it demonstrates the amazing influence and effect it had/has on other music styles..hip hop, trip hop, electronica. Also some analysis and discussion about the cultural/sociological aspects/theories of how and why it developed.

So... a pretty good read...but not a straight forward one..
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