The genre of dub has become a dumping ground for bad musicians. After all, how hard can it be to render deep bass, reverberant melody lines, and echoing synth backgrounds? (The answer: not real hard. Especially when you have a computer doing it for you.) Too many stoners have bumped into dub and rendered their shallow thoughts.
This compilation from ON-U Sound presents ample evidence that dub is indeed alive and well. In the right hands, it can be a powerful creative force. And what comes through immediately on Chainstore Massacre is that the artists chosen for this record do not believe in convention. Each track has a twist: the opener by Bad Card featured sampled spoken words running diagonally across the beat, for example. Various sounds from far outside the realm of the expected appear everywhere. Adrian Sherwood (who, incidentally, produced this compilation at ON-U Sound) incorporates a very processed series of electronic and vocal textures, somehow transporting the digital realm into an analog feast. Sinead O'Connor appears on Skip "Little Axe" McDonald's "My Love I Bring." (Odd? Most certainly. But it works.) The Asian Dub Foundationstalwarts of East-meets-West fusionemploy minor melodies, devotional vocals, and percussion at the junction between South Asian ritual and electronic pulse.
The tune "25 O'Clock," from midway through, is a particular favorite. It brings the talented Irish rapper Ri Ra together with a bouncing bass pulse, deftly urging a nonstop party: "No pausin, no stallin! Keep it going till 25 o'clock in the morning!" A few words of praise for "those who keep the weed seedless" make it abundantly clear where Ri Ra stands with respect to the Jamaican ganja tradition. Party on, mate! Keep em long and fat! (The next tune, Junior Delgado's "Fully Legalise," does not cloak its intent one bit.)
For a various artist compilation, this record is remarkably even. Of course, any disc of this nature has its low points as well, by definition. The tired '80s sound of Shadon's "Places I Won't Go" redundantly echoes its title. Fast Forward. And Salmonella Dub's "Push On Thru (Remix)" fails to stray far enough from cliche to attract interest. The tune is certainly not offensive, but it falls short of the expansive spirit of the record.
If you're curious about new dub sounds that reinvent the genre instead of recycling it, Chainstore Massacre is a great place to start. I've certainly made my share of discoveries here... the exciting part is the records yet to come by each of these artists.
Visit ON-U Sound on the web.
Personnel: Bad Card; Head; Asian Dub Foundation; Little Axe; Adrian Sherwood; Mark
Stewart; Ri Ra; Junior Delgado; Skip "Little Axe" McDonald; Shadon; Little
Roy; Salmonella Dub; Ghetto Priest; Dub Syndicate; Mutant Hi Fi.