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Diatribes: Great Stone / Blood Dunza

John Eyles By

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The duo Diatribes—d'incise (a.k.a. Laurent Peter) and Cyril Bondi—are the driving forces behind the INSUB label on which many of their recordings have been released, either as Diatribes or within other groupings. Great Stone / Blood Durza is not the duo's first release on a label other than INSUB, but it is noteworthy for other reasons; it is released on vinyl in an edition limited to 300 copies and it is explicitly making connections between Diatribes' electro-acoustic improvisation and the Jamaican dub typified by King Tubby and Augustus Pablo. One clue lies in the album title which references two classic roots reggae tunes from the 70's, "Stone" by Prince Alla and "Blood Dunza" by Johnny Clarke both of which were remixed in dub versions by King Tubby, the former as "Great Stone" on the b-side of "Stone" (check out the YouTube clip below for evidence.) Another clue is that on Great Stone / Blood Dunza both members of Diatribes are credited with playing melodica—Augustus Pablo's instrument of choice, as featured on his classic album King Tubby's meets Rockers Uptown. Great Stone / Blood Dunza seems to be the natural successor to the duo's last release on INSUB, Augustus. Despite the hint in its title, that album gave no details of Diatribes' working methods when recording its music, but this one does.

Each of the tracks "Blood Dunza" and "Great Stone" occupies one side of the vinyl record; they run for about eighteen and twenty minutes, respectively. They are the results of "deconstructing" the original King Tubby dub versions, both by adding to and subtracting from them, which essentially leaves these versions as very distant relatives of the King Tubby ones and, hence, even more distant from the Johnny Clarke and Prince Alla originals. (Note to any enterprising DJ, with a sense of adventure: There is scope here for an interesting collage/mash-up, starting with the original then leading into the King Tubby version and thence into the Diatribes version.)

So, on "Great Stone" the dominant sound is of melodicas playing sustained chords (rather than melodic phrases, as favoured by Pablo) with occasional low frequency rumbling underneath (rather than booming, speaker-shaking dub bass) and "noises off" such as birds chirping, percussive rattles, surface hiss. Altogether, the end result is the antithesis of dub, being steady state and harbouring no sudden changes, shocks or surprises. Maybe this is chill-out dub?

"Blood Dunza" is similar but also very different to "Great Stone." Again, it features the melodicas, the bass frequencies (which occasionally sound like amplifier hum), the hiss and crackle. In addition it features percussive sounds reminiscent of footsteps and/or gun shots, which could actually be slowed-down rim shots. Because the deconstruction has involved the subtraction of tracks the piece is punctuated by silences from which sounds re-emerge before decaying back into another silence. Maybe this is electro-acoustic improv dub?

Mentally, this record is already filed alongside such inventive uses of vocal source material as Terry Riley's You're No Good (Organ of Corti, 2000) and First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Kommando Raumschiff Zitrone (Quincunx, 2006); all that prevents it being on a par with such classics is the fact that none of the original vocals have survived the deconstruction by Diatribes. The end result is a pioneering and fascinating work that gives strong clues to its origins, but there is clearly still scope for Diatribes (or others) to pursue further the pathways that have opened up with this milestone release.

Track Listing: Blood Dunza; Great Stone.

Personnel: Diatribes: d’incise & Cyril Bondi: melodica and bass melodica, loudspeakers, objects, electronics, microphones.

Title: Great Stone / Blood Dunza | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Aussenraum Records

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