Lines In Wax

THIRTEEN YEARS OF UNWANTED OPINION

reggae, dub & soul

Lee Perry – Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978)

What a thoroughly charming and endearing set of songs. The beautiful, sun-drenched production (as in, it sounds like the tape was left in a Walkman which in turn was left out on a pavement outside the Black Ark studio for two whole days) provides a warm and comforting listen, with Perry’s homely and down to earth lyrics only reiterating this feeling. Truly, this is a pleasure to listen to on almost any occasion, and has to be up there with the very “best” reggae records (only downside is that there seems there is very little in the way of dub on this album – at least in instrumental form, mostly this is a vocal-led affair).

Fela Kuti – Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)

As a white man in a western country I can only empathise with the themes of this record. That’s not to say Kuti’s music isn’t for me, as music is for anyone who is willing to listen. Knowing the sensitive political situation around Kuti and the severity of the confrontation between him and those that were in power, one can really feel the weight of every word in these epic, sprawling tracks. On top of that, they groove like nobody’s business, so for an occasion where you perhaps want to dance AND expanding your mind consciously to the plight of others, look no further.

Om – Gethsemane Dubplate (2013)

Om – Gethsemane Dubplate (2013)

“Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub – yay God!” Never thought a Family Guy quote would sum up Al Cisneros’ Om so perfectly, but there we go. “Gethsemane” is possibly the best song on Adviatic Songs (it’s been a minute since I heard that album though), but these dub remixes perhaps expectedly remove the startling urgency with which that beautiful song closes after 8 minutes of pensive meditation and bass groove. Instead, said pensive meditation and bass groove is (once again) perhaps expectedly, the element that is focused on here as the piece is reworked in two separate dub tracks. I love dub reggae, so this was a nice listen for me. If you’re new to Om, or perhaps not the biggest fan in the world (or of dub music in any way), then this is an item that can skipped. Peter.Griffin.says.Perhaps.24hourloop.720p.mkv

The Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle Dub (1973)

The Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle Dub (1973)

When I first brought this thing into my circulation I had no idea that it was one of the first dub records. As in, one of the ones that pulls together Perry’s reworkings from other Upsetters releases. Either way, I fell in love with this before realising it was as important as it is the world of dub reggae (and music in general as a whole). You cannot beat the warm, analogue sound on this. The tape hiss, the general wobble of it all, the slightly run-down feel. Outside of King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (or whatever its called), I’ve yet to find a better set of dubs than the Black Board Jungle Dubs. Yet, anyway.

PainKiller – Execution Ground (1994)

PainKiller – Execution Ground (1994)

This is the third Pain Killer full length album to date (although its kinda weird to call the first two full lengths such, because they aren’t all that long). Execution Ground breaks the mould, entering far, far spacier territory. You can really feel the influences that Mick was experimenting with at the time; dub, ambient etc. (let’s not forget Laswell has albums in this territory too). The album is a far cry from the jazz-grind carnage of the first two, instead being a much more longform beast. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments and pure explosions of insane sound and energy, but there are also extended passages of dub-like grooves where the music just keeps folding over on itself. Execution is probably my favourite Pain Killer record, but it is markedly different from anything else that they have done in the past, and different from what they are known for doing.

Killing Joke – In Dub: Rewind (Vol. 1) (2021)

Killing Joke – In Dub: Rewind (Vol. 1) (2021)

This is a release that is definitely not for everyone, especially in regards to the wide range of people that Killing Joke are lucky to call fans. However, there is a subset of folk who will be well aware of Youth’s producing history, and of his penchant for electronic music and of course, the art of dubbing. This is far from the first “in dub” collection we’ve had of Killing Joke classics, and it definitely isn’t the last. Most will no doubt see this as another pointless remix album, but as I said, that subset of people who are into dub, will no doubt relish the music on offer here. Rewind Vol. 1 is more than just remixes, its a deconstruction, with the purpose of building something new, and that is exactly what happens here. I wouldn’t say it was for “active” listening, unless you are partial to the ‘erb or something along those lines, but for ambient or background listening this dreamy, pulse-like snake of a re-interpretation of Killing Joke’s work by one of the group’s most interesting members is near perfect. For true, old-school dub fans I will finish with a warning that a lot of the sounds here (and on Rewind Vol. 2) also borrow heavily from the psytrance world – I kept expect Simon Posford to rear his head with some of the basslines in use on this record. Cheers all!

Gorillaz vs. Spacemonkeyz – Laika Come Home (2002)

Gorillaz vs. Spacemonkeyz – Laika Come Home (2002)

Laika Come Home is a stunning remix album that accompanies the band’s equally stunning debut selftitled record. Everything here is done in a dub reggae style, which permeated the selftitled in its own way. So, it is super cool to have guest mixers Spacemonkeyz come in and really push that vibe further. I can’t really pick individual favourites (well, I could), but this thing works best as a whole. Chuck it on, sit back, and enjoy.

Betty Davis – Betty Davis (1973)

Betty Davis – Betty Davis (1973)

Probably high time I reviewed this as today I got the news that Betty Davis had passed on. RIP. (This review was written in February 2022 – Ed). Her voice is something else, really pushing that cracked, strained and from-the-soul delivery, even if most of her songs are about getting dicked down instead of having a broken heart (perhaps both? Haha). Honestly though this thing is absolutely dripping with style, funk and passion. I bet it sounds even better on a beaten, dusty vinyl copy.

Jah Wobble & Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom – A Dub Transmission (2001)

Jah Wobble & Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom – A Dub Transmission (2001)

I’ve heard the name Jah Wobble many, many times, but have never had the pleasure of partaking in any of his music. Thank the dub heavens then, for this collab with the legendary Bill Laswell. A Dub Transmission takes you on an hour of ticking, chill-out beats underpinned by intense, fat sub-bass. It won’t blow a hole in your speaker cone, but you can definitely feel its presence, which is fantastic. A bit later on, some jazz elements come into the fray, and washes of echoing saxophone cut through the dubs. An aural pleasure.

Skindred – Babylon (2002)

Skindred – Babylon (2002)

Where Dub War met its end, Skindred rose from the ashes, sailing to new heights of popularity and success. Babylon would go on to sell extremely well, and whilst maybe it hasn’t aged all that well, stand out tracks like “Pressure”, the title track or “Selector” remind you why this brand of ragga, dub and metal was so infectious.

The Upsetters – Super Ape (1976)

The Upsetters – Super Ape (1976)

Man, this is some good shit. Thick, dense production is the order of the day, which really really lends itself to the dub sound. I’m no expert, but my experience with dub reggae sounds is the same as metal: lots of scooped mids, fat bass and tickling highs. This fucking thing is fat across the middle, just like the ape on the cover. Serious big tunes here, so kick back and enjoy.

Lee “Scratch” Perry / The Black Ark Players – Black Ark In Dub (1981)

Lee “Scratch” Perry / The Black Ark Players – Black Ark In Dub (1981)

Black Ark is (was) the name of the studio that Lee Perry constructed himself at his home in Jamaica. It’s – apparently – primitive gear and set up (compared to other big-business owned studios in Jamaica at the time) could easily have been the laughing stock of the record cutting elite, but instead what Lee Perry did with so little is now part of musical history. The dubs on this record seem to include cuts from the Black Ark house band, regardless of who they played for or where the cuts ended up originally, Lee (and some cohorts) have dismantled and reassembled the tracks using the mixing desk as an instrument (or a weapon of peace!), as is the way with dub music, creating something entirely new and unique in the process. I absolutely love this stuff but, I suppose like jazz, I find the whole dub / reggae / dance hall stuff to be difficult to penetrate. I’ll get there! Until then, I’ll just pretend that I know what I’m talking about! Haha!

Gorillaz – G Sides (2001)

Gorillaz – G Sides (2001)

G-Sides is a collection of tracks from the Gorillaz self titled era, and asides from the (frankly, pointless) single version of “Rock The House”, is rammed to the gills with excellent content. I always loved the dub undercurrent to the group’s early work and there are plenty of odd tracks here catering in this regard, “Dracula” and “Left Hand Suzuki Method” spring to mind as favourites. G-Sides is not as good as the album that came before it, but collections of leftovers and remixes rarely out-do the original product.

Steven Seagal – Songs From The Crystal Cave (2004)

Steven Seagal – Songs From The Crystal Cave (2004)

This is really an intriguing album. The title alone promises something mystical and exciting, unknown and terrifying. The art, well, strip away three of those things, leaving terrifying. I think that word is probably the best way to describe this entire album. Like, who on earth allowed this to happen? If the man himself isn’t crooning out awkward ballads or pop numbers, he’s lending his “guitar” “skills” to a bevvy of lukewarm reggae / dancehall inspired tracks, chock full of boring MCs and infomercial-grade music (and not in the cool vaporwave way). Honestly, I’m appalled at myself for sitting through this one.

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis (1970)

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis (1970)

Blacks and the crackers! Brothers and the whities! Everyone has heard “Move On Up” but I only got into this record after falling in love with the opening track after it was used as the theme for season 1 of HBO’s The Deuce. Honestly, my knowledge in this era and in these genres is severely lacking so I’m probably going to struggle describing this record, but it sounds fantastic. It’s funky, soulful and pumping with energy. The bass guitar alone is worth listening for. Great stuff, truly.

Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 – Zombie (1977)

Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 – Zombie (1977)

This is the record that angered the Nigerian government so much that the army stormed Kuti’s compound and threw his mother out of a third story window, resulting in severe injuries which led to her death. The title and overall theme to proceedings seems to call out those blindly following orders before they went and did just that as the result of such a calling out. Like, what the fuck Nigeria? Way to prove the guy right, but at such a terrible cost. The inquiry into the happenings that day swept everything more or less under the rug and Fela Kuti continued his activism and music with a renewed fire. Despite the tragedy behind it, Zombie is a gorgeously funky record, steeped in soul, artistic passion and that burning flame of rebellion. The songs are – for the most part – meandering percussive beasts that are alive and breathing, with flushes of jazz and soul elements.

Dub War – Wrong Side Of Beautiful (1996)

Dub War – Wrong Side Of Beautiful (1996)

Dub War, for those that don’t know, were the group that more or less became Skindred. In the 90s they released two or three albums of increasingly diverse ragga/dub infused rock, and whilst – to Earache Records at least – they ended up on the Wrong Side Of Successful, they are still highly regarded. Sure, it all sounds a bit dated now (but so does the first Skindred album), but in a cool way this record just oozes 90s vibes; showcasing the melting pot of styles that were bandied about at the time, but – rarely – for once, being mixed together into genuinely listenable and catchy tunes. Think Korn Meets Rockers Uptown.

Lee Scratch Perry – A Serious Dub (1997)

Lee Scratch Perry – A Serious Dub (1997)

Like, who the fuck actually listens to this shit? I love Lee Perry, but this compilation is a fucking bag of shit. Rushed, thrown together jumble of half-assed dubs is the order of the day. Absolutely, definitely, totally, utterly, AVOID at all costs pointlessness. (PS – I read on Discogs that this isn’t actually Scratch Perry at all… who knows what the fuck is going on with this B.S.). I would also like to quickly apologise for the fucking dire cover art quality in today’s post.

King Tubby – King At The Control (1981)

King Tubby – King At The Control (1981)

What a trip! Laid back, seriousllllly heavy dub vibes. It is nice to come across some King Tubby shit that hasn’t been rehashed into some piece of shit compilation.  King At The Control actually flows, like a real album (despite the nature of dub), and whilst there is a similarity between the tracks, especially in the first half or 2/3, it doesn’t get tired or boring. I absolutely love dub music, but the genre is filled with fucking endless, mindless re-issues. This however, is brilliant.

King Midas Sound – Waiting For You (2009)

King Midas Sound – Waiting For You (2009)

King Midas Sound is a beautiful collaboration between Roger Robinson, Kiki Hitomi and Kevin Martin, which (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) began life as a track for Kevin’s much more wider known project, The Bug. I find it hard to describe and categorize KMS simply because my exploration into this kind of music is incredibly limited (I got here through Godflesh, Techno Animal, etc.), although I can say that this is a incredibly strong and moving record. Revisiting it years later for the purpose of this post has acted as a written reminder to myself to explore these kinds of things more often. Robinson’s soft, bizarrely ethereal vocals are the perfect human accompaniment to Kevin Martin’s spaced out dubs, shuffling beats and sparse yet hard-hitting arrangements. Waiting For You walks that perilous tightrope between being chilled out and having a profound message; equal parts dark and light, with finishing flourishes from Hitomi, who would take more of a central vocal role as the project progressed in later years. Waiting For You was released by the excellent Hyperdub.

Augustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown (1976)

Augustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown (1976)

This has to be one of my favourite releases ever, and the best thing is that it is completely out of the ballpark in regards to the music I usually find myself listening to. Despite my best efforts to listen to everything, and as much as I love dub reggae, it isn’t something I find myself listening to all that often, anymore at least. This insanely legendary collaboration between a few greats of the genre; the band (Rockers Uptown in this case, one can only guess?), the producer King Tubby and the melodica playing shaman himself, Augustus Pablo, is surely one of the best places to start in the seemingly endless, incestuous world of dub reggae (let me dub that third hand remix in a rub-a-dub style, fam). Everything I love about dub is evident here. Take reggae music and strip it to the core, and if possible, remove as many vocal lines as possible. The bass must be deep. The guitars must be spacey as fuck. And the drums…well this is where Mr. Tub-A-Wub-A-Dub-Dub (I’m so sorry) excels the most. It really has to be heard to be believed. For me, it takes me back to my first trip to Amsterdam as a 20 year old wastoid, and all the sights and sounds of the coffeeshop scene and the freedom of the people involved in such (before shops started getting shot up and closed down by the government). It’s hard to pick a stand out track because the whole thing kinda flows as one for me. It is music to get lost in, and often enough the entire record ends before you are anywhere near finished absorbing the vibe it gives. If I had to pick out favourites, I’d start with track 7, the title track, “Satta Dub” rounds the performance off with a bit of a menacing beat, and I guess I’d have to pick the opener too, “Keep On Dubbing” as it is the stuff of legend.

Killing Joke – In Dub (2014)

Killing Joke – In Dub (2014)

I like Killing Joke and I like dub (be that dub reggae or the same remixing technique applied to other genres) but I’ve got to be in the mood for both, so there’s no surprise that I aurally inhaled this gargantuan release in one entire sitting. It took some doing as In Dub is 3 hours long, and contains several remixes of the same few songs. I’m not sure when I’ll actually ever come back to this release again, but I did enjoy it, and it is (surprisingly) more than just a remix album. Killing Joke’s average song structure just begs to be reworked in a rub-a-dub style, meng. I never really noticed it before, but the beats are really groovy. Jaz Coleman’s voice fits the echoic, stoned dubs perfectly. Some of the remixes of “Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove” are simply ethereal. “Eighties” is much sparser here, almost as if sung and performed by ghosts of that decade. Classic! Some of the tracks have genuine reggae elements added to them too, which is just lovely. I almost went to see one of the live shows on the In Dub tour, but when I found out it was just Youth on the stage and not the entire band I decided to be a good slave to the system and not anger my boss by requesting even more time off. What can you do, eh? Skin up, breh.

Talisman – Dole Age (2011)

Talisman – Dole Age (2011)

Totally and randomly got a bunch of reggae records for Christmas 2012, which is great because I love reggae but spend so much time on other types of music that I never get around to buying any. Talisman are from Bristol and play nice dubby reggae, with lots of original groove. The songs aren’t dubbed as such (as far as I can tell), they just have a lot of characteristics of the dub reggae sound, rather than playing typical straight up (and sometimes boring) reggae. There are only five songs here, the opener being rather lengthy and the tracks seemingly getting shorter as the record progresses. Side A dominates side B in my opinion, although both are great, relaxing music. Nothing brings the good vibes quite like a reggae record! There is a whole bunch of history written on the inner sleeve, mainly about Talisman as a band but it covers the entire Bristol scene briefly as well, which is nice. Out on Bristol Archive Records.

King Midas Sound – Aroo (2013)

King Midas Sound – Aroo (2013)

This 12″ marks my first Record Store Day purchase, even though it was accidental. I decided to visit Cardiff on Record Store Day this year, which was fairly disastrous, but I ended up in Catapult browsing where I picked up another King Midas 12″. When I took it to the counter to pay for it, the chap at the desk kindly informed me that the band had put another 12″ out on Ninja Tune just for Record Store Day. When I looked up they had a wall behind the counter covered in the shit that had been released for today only, which was a lot more understated than other shops in the area, which had queues out the door and half way around the fucking city. I’m glad I picked this up, because otherwise I would have missed my chance and have to pay hipsters on Discogs extortionate amounts for a copy, but this is definitely more of a completists item for the King Midas enthusiast. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ‘Sound, but the reason I love KMS so much is because of the haunting vocals, and thoughtful lyrics. The A-side, “Aroo” is enormously poppy, unlike anything I’ve heard from King Midas in the past, the usual choppy dub beats being led by an odd, distorted, almost guitar-like lead and fresh female vocals. Which is all well and good (not to mention, huge sounding), but it doesn’t leave much time for the Midas dubs, yo, which is what I’m all about. The standard vocals burst in every now and then like an afterthought, if anything just to “keep it Midas”. Side B and it’s “Version” are much more gloomy. A heavy synth leads a mystifying track that is much more on par with the King Midas Sound that I love. All in all, not a bad pick up, but not maybe something I would have rushed into buying if it wasn’t a limited edition. There is no record of this on Discogs etc. yet so I can’t give you a valuation (Monday 22nd update – now there is), but I paid £6.99 for it, which was probably a bit steep, but helps your ol’ bricks and mortar record store and all that. I guess that this price will rise a bit when the record becomes less easily available.

Little Roy – Battle For Seattle (2011)

Little Roy – Battle For Seattle (2011)

So, Nirvana. A touchy subject. Well, not touchy but a hard one to define. Awful? Maybe. Terrible? Maybe. Over-rated as fuck? Definitely. The thing with Nirvana is that the songs were fantastic. The songwriting was spot on, it’s just when the songs unfolded into real entities they were boring, nauseating grunge numbers. But, it would seem, a lot of people like Nirvana’s music, and that includes dub legend Little Roy, who for some godforsaken reason decided it would be a good idea to record an album of Nirvana songs in a rub-a-dub style. Had I heard the idea before the finished product I would indeed be questioning if Little Roy had finally had one toke too many on the peace pipe. But this record is absolutely fantastic, so keep on toking, little man! I won’t beat around the bush; Nirvana songs have never sounded so good. They are stripped back and the rhythms are exposed in their true colours; the sub-sonic bass carrying the lazy and friendly tunes along at a relaxing pace. Guitars are utilized simply; mainly for the standard reggae chord strums, and organs, moogs and other instruments take the lead. The drums are simple and are for the most part no more than the beat-keeping hat ticks, but sometimes there are devastating bass hits drenched in dub-echo and now and then all the bongos in the world come in for a laugh.  As with most records there are one or two stinkers but for the most part Little Roy has well and truly hit the nail on the head with this whole converting-Nirvana-into-dub-reggae thing. The fact that it really is better than any Nirvana recording is the icing on the cake for me and I want Little Roy to do more records like this. There is hope for awful music after all. Perhaps next he should try Anal Cunt. Out on Ark Recordings.

Dub War – Mental (1994)

Dub War – Mental (1994)

Before there was Skindred there was Dub War. I was always attracted to this band because of their awesome name. A war of dub? Sounds like my kind of party. Unfortunately I found Dub War a bit wet, not too shabby but very disappointing considering what I built them up to be in my head. My love for them sadly does not extend any further than this cheeky little single pressed by Earache (when they went off the fuckin’ dial with signing weird shit) in 1994 on CD, 7″ and 12″. This here is the 7″. The CD and 12″ both contain more remixes and a separate b-side track, whilst this 7″ only contains the title track and one boring remix that doesn’t actually sound that much different. Anyhow, die hard fans of Skindred should enjoy Dub War, and I’m sure they probably do. The song “Mental” is just that, Benji shouting a chorus of (i think) “absolutely mental!” over and over in a Welsh accent is very very amusing. That’s about it. The rap is pretty awesome too. You can currently get one of these for £1 on Discogs, so if you like odd shit, get in.