By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Christafari. Los Angeles musician Mark Mohr gave up drugs and booze to originate the genre of “gospel reggae”; he says he’s for “the equality of mankind” and wants to be “a voice for the unborn.” Though his Dub Sound & Power is on the upbeat, roots-lite side, his mixer was Jim Fox, engineer for Black Uhuru, Roots Radics and Culture — a man who knows whereof he dubs. Christafari’s next dub CD drops next year.
Alpha & Omega. London duo John & Christine pump out billowy, rootsy riddims with plenty of echo and a hippie spiritual vibe.
De Facto. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has turned out to be a goddamn cyclone of musical forces, having spun out of the pop-punk band At the Drive-In to the experimental post-rock clouds of Mars Volta and co-ownership of the rising independent noise label Gold Standard Laboratories. Maybe the best (though least visible) of his projects is the dub/Latin freak-out band De Facto, formed with ATDI mate Cedric Bixler Zavalas, Long Beach Dub All-Star Isaiah “Ikey” Owens and Mars Volta’s Jeremy Michael Ward. The horrible event of Ward’s death this year means, in addition to the scars on his loved ones, that maybe only one more in-the-can CD will be added to a De Facto catalog (two full-lengths, one EP) that has brought more bent menace to dub than any other recent offerings, and still packs a trunkful of wild-ass fun.
Dub Syndicate. Producer Adrian Sherwood has maintained the dub family line in England for many years through tech crossbreeding and periodic re-connections with the Jamaican root, mostly via his On-U Sound label. His standbys Dub Syndicate are inventive and weighty on the surface but somehow insubstantial — not enough aural space to breathe deep.
DJ Spooky. Paul D. Miller has always been the embodiment of dub values, while rarely nailing an explicit connection the way he’s now done with Dubtometry (Thirsty Ear), featuring real guys the Mad Professor and Lee Perry. Wheezing, sensual, waydown and smoky, it’s one of my favorite albums (any genre) this year.
Rhythm and Sound. Though Rhythm and Sound w/ the Artists (Asphodel) is a terrific vocalized tech-reggae album with even a potential hit on it (the coolly fierce “King in My Empire”), the simultaneously released Rhythm and Sound: The Versions is even steelier, as Berlin producers Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald locate the exact center of the modern dub universe using nothing but two chords, a bunch of machines and a phenomenal sense of space. Kraftwerk’s Autobahn can now stand aside; this is the new millennium’s ideal music for driving till you drop.
Slightly Stoopid. This Southland group is just pure reggae-pop and punk for the kids, stoned and friendly, with dizzy dub effects by Long Beach Dub Allstars engineer Miguel.
Dub Gabriel. There’s a lot of swirly eclectic-electric world-music drum & bass out there, but New York–based producer-artist Dub Gabriel, a frequent flier in international dance scenes, supplies the bigness and relentlessness you need for a modern dub fix.
Calamalka. We live in a stew of evil, and you won’t smell it any clearer than in the music of Vancouver’s Calamalka, coming soon from Plug Research. Doomy, doped, cross-eyed and way out there, it’s the hell-bound sound of the soft machine.
Burnt Friedman.Unbelievably weird and disjointed, like sleeping in a bed full of broken lawn furniture, German junkman Friedman’s Can’t Cool (Nonplace) still manages to give you a funk-tech-dub boner with its ceaseless invention and just plain hooks.
Pole. Stefan Betke is one German who’s thoroughly aware he’s no soul brother, but he sure can empty the cosmos into a subtly hissing/clicking dub drone, like a bottomless hole you could easily fall into. Reassuring if you’re optimistic, terrifying if you’re not.
Babylon Is Ours: The USA in Dub (Select Cuts). A way-deep and artfully sequenced collection of American dubbists, compiled by XLR8R scribe Ron Nachmann and DJ Sep. Put it on and leave it on; there’s not a bummer in the bunch.
J. Boogie’s Dubtronic Science (Om). Why not mix dub with urban soul? Every drop of Jah spirituality is drained out in favor of Courvoisier VSOP, a cozy couch and your sweet ass, baby.
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