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Evolution Of Dub Vol. 8: The Search for New Life Box set
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firstly, this box is the most generous in the series, regarding playing time and number of tunes, and is the first of such to contain artists i had never heard of. appropriately, first up is prince jammy's 'computerized dub', which certainly does what it says on the sleeve, moving things along from his dubs that appear in vol 6, purely instrumental and forward thinking (this was 1986), at one point sounding almost like the group suicide.
shane brown is new to me, but his 'juke boxx dub' is perhaps the most engaging album here, displaying an almost perfect balance of the old and the new, as to sound totally original. it has a warm organic feel to it, and is quite hypnotic in places.
two friends crew's 'voyage into dub is the cd that goes more 'off topic' than the rest, but is no worse off for that - veers away from reggae completely with some tunes, but is always 'danceable' and even quite cinematic in places.
the closest to what i am used to (pre-digital, 70's and early 80's dub) is 'dub clash' by alborosie, and as this is only a couple of years old, i find it very heartwarming that traditional dub is still in production, albeit with some electronic components.fine stuff.
this is a vital series, all in all, and i can't speak highly enough about it's value, both as essential listening, and as a potted history on the chronology of dub. 32 quality albums for a sum short of £100 - got to be a steal.
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For, as the fine linear notes to this latest installment say, "It would be logical assume that with the advent of digital reggae...(dub) would start shooting off in new technological tangents. But in reality it didn't really work out like that...(and) Jamaican music..moved on. Every seven inch single still came backed by a version side but sonic experimentation was no longer considered a necessity and dub was now considered PASSE (my emphasis)." In a nutshell, that is the problem with this set. Dub in its native environment no longer commanded popularity and so a competitive urge to create the best version did not exist.
This collection is well titled for the dubs featured here do need to search for a life. Three of the CDs feature versions of digital era reggae; the dub effects are extremely limited and uninteresting. These are fairly lifeless CDs. I cannot in all honesty recommend many dub albums of this era but two are quite good--Message Music: Digital Productions 1986-94 and Firehouse Revolution: King Tubbys on Digital. OK both these CDs make the linear notes to evolution of dub volume 8's case quite well--neither is a real dub set. The basic problem is dub in its original form just no longer existed.
The fourth CD is a recent work by Alborosie called Dub Clash which is basically a retro dub release. Alborosie has gone to the tedious length of recreating King Tubby's effects and even uses a "primitive" Teac mixer to create a contemporary dub album which sounds like a golden age release. He even recycles the classic riddims! Unfortunately, the overall set is an uninteresting failure. Not only do the horns sound wrong (way too in tune for classic reggae) but the need for yet another dub of Full Up or Bobby Babylon now, after 35 years and countless other revisions and reversions of such classic tracks, is not clear. The real problem is however good Alborosie's copy, you can still buy the original--and the original is so much better you have no reason to listen to Alborosie.
The general inferior nature of Alborosie's dub--despite his manifest professionalism--left me wondering whether classic musical fans would bother buying new recordings of JS Bach or Beethoven if original recordings of the masters still existed. I don't know--but I will say that any of the other Evolution of Dub series (especially the first (King Tubby) fifth (crucial Sly and Robbie dub) sixth (some very fine King Jammy dubs) and the seventh (more Tubby)) would be a better purchase than this volume.
Dub did move on--to become the common language of studio music everywhere, from Kingston to Paris to Seoul. Anywhere that multiple versions of songs are mixed and remixed, the spirit of dub lives. Dub is protean and demands a rigorous experimental attitude. Without that pioneer spirit, dub becomes sclerotic and uninteresting.
As a long time fan/collector of dub music, Prince Jammy's "Computerized Dub" is a pretty decent effort at combining computer-made beats with that whole organic sound from earlier years. Listen to "32 Bit Chip" and you'll hear what I mean. There's an organic quality mixed in along with the digital sounds/beats that's very satisfying. But this album isn't strictly computerized. "Stealie" ("Steely") and "Cleavie" ("Clevie"), well known as a bass/drums rhythm section on more modern Jamaican albums, including their album of Studio One rhythms, plus Wayne Smith Super Power All-Stars are here too. The combination keeps everything from going hard and totally digital sounding.
"Voyage Into Dub", from the Two Friends Crew, likewise is a combination of electronic dub beats, sounds, and occasional vocal snippets. "Roughneck Bub" will give you a good idea of how smooth and organically intoxicating computer-dub can be. This music is sometimes (mistakenly) lumped in with hard-core Ragga, mostly because they worked with more contemporary artists like Shabba Ranks, Cocoa Tea, and others. But this isn't a million beats a minute album--exactly the opposite. The beats are slinky and open--hear "Morning Blues Dub"--as an example.
"Juke Boxx Dub (sic), from Shane Brown (who's related to "Duke" Reid), is the son of Errol Brown. He too built on the history of dub music, using analog equipment. And his music too is centered on the dancehall style, working with Buju Banton, Capleton, Sizzla, and many more artists. His "Judge Dub" is a good combination of modern dub which incorporates horns to accent his rhythms. "Politician Dub" is a standout with it's deep bass, guitars, and floating vocals.
"Dub Clash", from Alborosie is another fine set of "new" dub. This album is from 2010, with Alborosie playing drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, and percussion on most of the tracks. Also here is the Shengen Clan Band who help lay down some fine rhythms. He is one of the few newer producers working in the "old" ways, using "King" Tubby as his major influence. Of the four albums, this set is closest to more traditional dub sounds.
To be honest I was all set to not like this new volume because of the computer/dancehall connection. I love dub from it's inception on through to it's prime years using so many fine musicians. But I have to say I'm surprised and impressed with what these modern dub producers have done. In it's own way this is full of deep, satisfying dub rhythms--just "computerized up" a bit. But don't think this collection isn't worth hearing. As dub has evolved, albums like these are good examples of modern dub from producers that haven't forgotten where the music came from. This volume can easily sit alongside the other sets in this series.
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