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Diatribes: Echoes & Sirens

John Eyles By

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This four-track, forty-one-minute vinyl LP is the follow-up to Diatribes' 2015 Aussenraum LP, Great Stone/Blood Dunza, and completes a dub-influenced trilogy that began with Augustus (INSUB, 2013). Unlike those two albums which featured the basic duo version of Diatribes, on Echoes & Sirens Cyril Bondi and d'incise are joined by electric bassist Raphael Ortis and a horn section of alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and trombone. As bass and horns were often key ingredients of classic dub, these added elements have certainly helped Diatribes in their pursuit of a possible relation between dub and experimental music, pushing further what they initiated on the preceding LP.

Where the two earlier albums name-checked dub heroes Augustus Pablo and King Tubby, this time out Jah Shaka merits a mention. Despite that, as with its predecessors, Echoes & Sirens is dub-influenced rather than dub per se, a point emphasised by the album's sleeve note: "It's definitely not dub music, nor a dub version of experimental music, it's not remixes nor a figurative soundscape."

Having established what this music is not, it clearly is an innovative amalgam that is staking-out its own patch, distinctly different from dub and experimental music but containing elements of both; the album's four tracks, each about ten minutes long, are markedly different to one another, but all fit that description. The opener, "Dub fire will be burning" begins with a sustained fanfare from the horns, accompanied by occasional bass notes, "noises off," crackle, voices in conversation and echoing rimshots; altogether that list of ingredients may sound very dub, but the piece is never rhythmic enough for dancing or moving, so it remains far more cerebral than physical. The transition into side one's other track, "Tell me, what do you see" is fairly seamless, mainly marked by that track's use of rhythmic cymbal and a sustained keyboard riff with reverb. The piece noticeably avoids obvious dub clichés, its heavy, amped-up bass notes never becoming a booming rhythm, instead supplying a low frequency presence. Very listenable, and repeatable.

Flipping the disc, the same basic tale is repeated, to good effect, with dub sounds being used in an experimental landscape and adding rhythm to it, rather than experimental sounds being shoehorned into a dub setting. That is even true of "Continually," the album's closer and most bass-heavy track, meaning its track that is nearest to dub. It gives a glimpse of how Diatribes might sound if they partnered up with some musicians with a dub pedigree (Blackbeard, anyone?) to push their explorations further towards dub. For now, however, the duo must feel no pressure to go down that route. What they have achieved on Echoes & Sirens will do perfectly well until the next installment of this fascinating venture arrives.

Track Listing: Dub fire will be burning; Tell me, what do you see?; Don’t trouble I (oh no); Continually.

Personnel: Cyril Bondi: drums, electric organ; d’incise: electronics, samples, delay, melodica; Raphael Ortis: electric bass; Pierre-Antoine Badaroux: alto saxophone; Betrand [sic] Denzler: tenor saxophone; Louis Laurain: trumpet; Fidel Fourneyron: trombone.

Title: Echoes & Sirens | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Aussenraum Records

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