Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Dub Continuum: Reggae Inna Dubstep

Fact: The electronic dance music sub-genre dubstep would not exist with out reggae, and specifically instrumental dub reggae. 

Although that's obvious to those familiar with dubstep's decade-plus evolution, for the younger generation, this connection is less apparent thanks in part to newer artists such as Skrillex and 12th Planet whose productions throw dubby electronica into a hardcore mosh-pit. 

And no grudge there -- youth have a tendency of irreverently kicking the rust out of music styles that have grown stagnant. Punk did just that to rock 'n' roll in the late-70s and rave sub-genres like acid house and breakbeat techno, themselves dubstep precursors, up-ended the Euro-dance and house music status quo. 

But separating dubstep entirely from traditional Jamaican dub music would be like disowning an esteemed family member. Fittingly, a pair of recent comps sets dubstep firmly back in the context of Jamaican sound system music traditions. 

Greensleeves Dubstep Chapter 1, released in November 2011, features original Greensleeves label recordings transformed by some of London's best producers, including The Bug, Coki (pictured right) and Mala of Digital Mystikz, Goth-Trad and Horsepower Productions. It's appropriate that longtime British reggae imprint Greensleeves, a staple through the 1980s and '90s, should hand the keys to its deep vaults over to some of the UKs best dubstep producers, many of whom grew up listening to reggae pirate radio stations playing the label's original releases by Yellowman, Barrington Levy and Scientist

The producers involved took to the catalog without reservations and the results are refreshingly forward-thinking. Notable tracks include Cluekid's (pictured left) subby, minimal treatment of ragga MC Junior Cat's "Caan Eat Mi Out," (a true bass-bin shaker!) while V.I.V.E.K. brings a rootsy steppers arrangement to Johnny Osbourne's "Fally Rankin'," a version that UK dub traditionalists like Manasseh or Aba-Shanti could use in their sets. Other highlights: the inclusion of Coki's remix of Mavado's "Weh Dem A Do" (out for years on white label) and dubstep originators Horsepower Productions' bouncy, tropical treatment of Yellowman's "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng." (get this track free when you Like the Greensleeves Facebook page.) Overall, the full range of current underground dubstep styles -- from jazzy to experimental -- are explored.

For those asking the question, "What took Greensleeves so long?" Bankruptcies and changes of ownership are the answer. In the time between dubstep's birth in the early '00s until now Greensleeves was sold twice, eventually acquired by US company VP Records in 2008. That said, Greensleeves Dubstep Volume 1 is a confident step in the right direction. In the past, UK dance music and foundation reggae walked similar but parallel paths, showing mutual nods of respect when they met. A set like this is a firm handshake between the two relatives, with hopefully many more to come.

GREENSLEEVES CHAPTER 1 : Track Listing:01. Busy Signal and Mavado – Badman Place (Coki-Digital Mystikz remix)02. Ding Dong – Badman Forward Badman Pull Up (The Bug ft. Flow Dan remix)03. Yellowman – Zungguzugguguzungguzeng (Horsepower Productions remix)04. Johnny Osbourne – Fally Ranking (V.I.V.E.K. remix)05. Sizzla – One Love (Mala-Digital Mystikz remix)05. Mavado – Weh Dem A Do (Coki-Digital Mystikz and Undeground Ice remix)07. Admiral Bailey – Jump Up (Terror Danjah remix)08. Gappy Ranks – Stinking Rich (TMSV remix)09. Gyptian – Nah Let Go (LDD remix)10. Pampidoo – Synthesizer Voice (Goth-Trad remix)11. Vybz Kartel – Emergency (Coki-Digital Mystikz remix)12. Junior Cat – Caan Eat Mi Out (Cluekid remix)13. QQ – Tek It To Them (Kalbata remix)14. Barrington Levy – Here I Come (Kromestar remix)

Another compilation showcasing a traditional dub reggae-centered take on dubstep and other electronic bass styles comes from the Renegade Media camp and Canadian dub producer Dubmatix.

Dubmatix Presents Clash of the Titans: The System Shakedown Remixes, sees an international cast remix tracks from Dubmatix's 2010 album System Shakedown. The original album featured his organic dub versions and vocal collaborations with Jamaican pros like U-Brown, The Mighty Diamonds and Dennis Alcapone as well as UK heavies The Ragga Twins and Brother Culture

The set is by no means a strictly a dubstep remix collection. Instead, like the aftershocks of a mighty earthquake, this selection illustrates dubstep and dub-electronic related sub-genres' further transformations. Birmingham's G-Corp do, in fact, bring a UK dubstep vibe to "Wobble Webble," mixed with hints of their signature downtempo beat aesthetic. Drum & bass producer Marcus Visionary delivers an absolutely cracking, in-the-pocket jungle flex on "Rough Likkle Sound," while Victor Rice and Zion Train trod in four-four steppers territory.  Scotland's Mungo's Hi-Fi and New York's Nate Wize also represent the heavier side of dubstep. Both, however, daub their dubs with organic eggae horn blasts, guitar chops,  echoes and effects. The spirit of Jamaican dub is alive and well in their hands. Hear for yourself below.

 Clash of the Titans - The System Shakedown Remixes by dubmatix