21st Century Dub
Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus
Two new cd releases from the formerly cassette-only ROIR records, known for releasing cutting-edge punk and reggae, feature dub masterpieces from the 70s. Rastafari Dub is truly crucial dub from the early 1970's, which sowed the seed for later work such as 21st Century Dub - the flower of avant-garde Japanese-Jamaican electronic collaboration from the end of that decade.
The sparsity of Ras Michael's dub is what stands out. Recorded in 1972, this seminal album could be the dictionary definition of dub: "Hear Rastafari Dub by Ras Michael." While the songs are composed by and depend heavily on Ras's burra drumbeats from the rural hills of Jamaica, the foundation of the studio dub sound is laid by bassist Robbie Shakespeare. His steady hand in the low register leaves room for the electronic additions of other session musicians such as guitarists Peter Tosh and Earl "Chinna" Smith and studio wizard Geoffrey Chung. Their instrumentation happily complements the ethereal lyrical interjections of the Sons of Negus, leaving plenty of space for the mind to wander in between rhythmical statements. While lacking the diversity of ROIR's other recent dub reissue, there's not a weak beat on Rastafari Dub and hopefully it will inspire other artists with the lesson that "less is more."
The inspiration for 21st Century Dub came when Bob Marley toured Japan in 1979 and met Japanese electronica wizard Pecker (so named for his woodpecker-like twitching while playing percussion), who was fascinated with the Jamaican dub scene. Invited by Marley to bring key members of The Yellow Magic Orchestra to Jamaica for sessions, the extraordinary results of Pecker's work with both Studio One and Tuff Gong musicians were released on two albums in Japan in 1980, then on cassette only by ROIR in 1987. This first cd release of the recordings remains diverse and engaging, if more technically flashy as a result of Pecker's contributions. Strong dub jams like "Mystical Cosmic Vibration" and "International Orchitis" show the strong influence of Jamaican percussion duo Sly and Robbie, and contrast the more techno tunes by Pecker such as "Pecker Power Pt. 2". In between lie great versions of "Jamming" and "Concrete Jungle" recorded with the blessing, if not the participation, of Bob Marley himself. - Craig Tower
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