RHYTHM & SOUND featuring JENNIFER LARA / “Queen In My Empire”

The music on this disk is wonderful, but the sound quality is distractingly bad. I know that transferring vinyl to CD will result in some hiss and pops, but the quality on this CD is totally unacceptable. A quiet consistent hiss would be understandable, but the hiss on these tracks gets louder and quieter at random times and is totally disruptive, at times as loud as the vocal track. A big disappointment for me. —An earnest but clueless amazon.com reviewer
About fifteen years ago, before MP3s or CDs, back when one’s only choices were cassette and vinyl, there was a cassette-only release by the Dub Syndicate named One Way System. That cassette contained some of the baddest dub ever committed to, well, tape but I hated cassette tapes. Besides the inferior sound quality and the inconvenience of having to constantly rewind and fast-forward, cassettes tapes used to stick, unravel, pop, degrade in quality and, as if all of that weren’t reason enough to hate cassette tapes, if you ever forgot a tape in your car on a hot summer’s day, it would melt. I liked One Way System so much that I bought the cassette anyway. For years it was the only cassette I owned. I don’t remember what happened to it—it probably melted—but imagine my surprise when I put the new CD by Rhythm & Sound in my CD player, pressed play, and out came the sounds of some of the baddest vocal-and-dub music I’d heard in years, tape hiss and all. That’s right, the tape hiss thing is intentional. Listen closely to the end of “King In My Empire”—the noise comes in and out in waves, there’s no way all of that is accidental. This is the first Basic Channel release I’ve heard, but apparently the Basic Channel production crew is known for manipulating ambient sounds in the background of the music. And as for the music, it’s good enough that I’d be a fan even if all of the extraneous whooshing and clicking were the result of a bad transfer job. All eight of the lengthy dub excursions (the shortest one clocks in at 5:11) occupy the previously unexplored middle-ground between 20th century roots reggae and 21st century downtempo electronica, most of it sounding like an answer to the unasked question: What would have happened if Kruder & Dorfmeister had produced Black Uhuru instead of Sly & Robbie? Buy this album if you dig dub but if it’s variety you’re looking for, keep looking. The first time I listened to the album, there were at least three times that I had to check the track listing to make sure I wasn’t hearing the same song twice. (Once I was—the album features dueling versions of  “King/Queen In My Empire.” Is one a cover of the other? It’s impossible to tell.) Rhythm & Sound make no attempt to surprise the listener. There are none of the usual dub tricks: no sudden blasts of echo, no mid-song tempo shifts, no backward-spinning tape reels. If you’re looking for chord changes, forget it. I don’t even hear chords. Instead, each rhythm track settles into a spacey, skanked-out groove and proceeds to go nowhere slowly, the drum and bass eventually achieving an hypnotic effect, due in no small part to the fog-like and incessant tape hiss. I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the eight featured singers, but the six men and two women all have similarly soulful, patois-accented voices that sound like they were bootlegged from thirty-year-old sessions at Black Ark or Studio One. —Mtume ya Salaam Bonus track: Rhythm & Sound feat. Cornel Campbell - “King In My Empire”           forwarding dub          Mtume, I hear this dub work and it’s ok, but… this music produced by the German duo of producers Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald who work under the calling of Rhythm and Sound, which their record company describes as “a new middle ground between Detroit techno and 70s roots reggae” is one removed from the source of dub music. dub factor cover.jpg For me, the dub stuff I like is Sly & Robbie, especially that Black Uhuru Dub Factor album. I remember seeing Black Uhuru on a riverboat in New Orleans. The trio sang their hearts out. And sang some more and it was a wonderful concert. But check this, when the singers quit, Sly & Robbie kept on playing, not like an encore or nothing, but like we having a ball and we ain’t going to stop. And they kept playing. And kept playing. And that shit was awesome. I also once saw Steel Pulse dub it up live, their sound man putting down all the effects in real time. It was impressive. And traveling thru Jamaica I heard all kinds of dub in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Passed through a little town where they had speakers bigger than refrigerators sitting on the side of the road, blasting so strong, that the sound waves literally shook our car as we drove by. I have had a range of experiences beyond just listening to records, experiences that provide references for my taste in dub that supercedes what most people know as dub, especially in the sense of studio created dub, which is what 90% of dub music is. sly & robbie.jpg So anyway, take a listen to “Slaughter,” a cut from The Dub Factor, which itself is composed mainly of dubs from the vocal album Chill Out. In both cases, the heartbeat is Sly & Robbie. Should also make mention of the production skills of Paul "Groucho" Smykle who was a major contributor to the outstanding production. Although it is not widely recognized as such, in many, many important ways, dub was the first popular expression of remixing as a musical form. In my ears, Sly & Robbie are the pinnacle of this particular form, not discounting nor disparaging all of the other producers/musicians who have forwarded reggae and dub music. —Kalamu ya Salaam Favorite dub          The Dub Factor is probably my favorite dub album. I remember back in the early Nineties when I worked at Tower, I recorded your copy of the LP onto a cassette. I used to catch the bus to work while listening to The Dub Factor loop over and over on my Walkman. The way I remember it, it took a few weeks of doing that to finally get sick of it. So, no doubt, Sly & Robbie are top choice when it comes to dub. I hear Rhythm & Sound as coming more out of the Adrian Sherwood / On-U school of dub. They're consciously re/creating a roots/techno type of thing. Something that is simultaneously brand new and three decades old. They may not be trying to copy the classic dub styles, but they're certainly aware of them and probably paying tribute. It's not that I don't differentiate between the styles, I just happen to like them both. —Mtume ya Salaam

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2 Responses to “RHYTHM & SOUND featuring JENNIFER LARA / “Queen In My Empire””

Marian Says:
October 27th, 2005 at 12:42 am

Somewhere I missed the definition of "dub". So I will play the kid in the back of the room, raise my hand and ask (Especially since I ran upon the term in a review recently). Dub????

As opposed to any other electronically manipulated music?

           Mtume says:             

Sorry, Marian. That’s what I get for ass-uming. Here’s the Wikipedia entry for ‘dub music.’

* * * 

Dub is a form of Jamaican music, which developed in the early 1970s.

Dub is characterized as a "version" of an existing song, typically emphasizing the drums and bass for a sound popular in local Sound Systems. The instrumental tracks are typically drenched in sound processing effects, with most of the lead instruments and vocals dropping in and out of the mix. The music sometimes features processed sound effects and other noises, such as animal sounds, babies crying, and producers shouting instructions at the musicians.

These versions are mostly instrumental, sometimes including snippets of the original vocal version. Often these tracks are used for "Toasters" rapping heavily-rhymed and alliterative lyrics. These are called "DeeJay Versions". As opposed to hip hop terminology, in reggae music the person with the microphone is called the "DJ" (elsewhere called the "MC", for master of ceremonies), while the person choosing the music and operating the turntables is the "Selector" (elsewhere called the DJ).

A major reason for producing multiple versions was economic: A record producer could use a recording he owned to produce numerous versions from a single studio session. Version was also an opportunity for a producer or remix engineer to experiment and vent their more creative side. The version was typically the B-side of a single, with the A-side dedicated to making a popular hit, and B-side for experimenting and providing something for DJs to talk over.

See in particular the works of King Tubby, who is widely recognized as the originator of dub music, although some (including himself) claim that Lee Perry was the inventor of this genre. Other significant artists include: Errol Thompson, Prince Jammy, Keith Hudson and Augustus Pablo, who produced some of the very best in dub music in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Britain became a new center for dub production with Mad Professor and Jah Shaka being the most famous, while Scientist became the heavyweight champion of Jamaican dub. It was also the time when dub made its influence known in the work of harder edged, experimental producers such as Adrian Sherwood and the roster of artists on his On-U Sound label.

In the 1990s and beyond dub has been influenced by and in turn influenced techno, jungle, drum and bass, house music, trip hop, ambient music, and hip hop, with many electronic dub tracks produced by nontraditional musicians from these other genres. Musicians such as Massive Attack, Bauhaus, The Clash, PiL, The Orb, Rhythm & Sound, Pole, Underworld and others demonstrate clear dub influences in their respective genres, and their innovations have in turn influenced the mainstream of the dub genre. DJs appeared towards the end of the 1990s who specialised in playing music by these musicians, such as the UK’s Unity Dub. Traditional dub has, however, survived (see Aba Shanti-I, for example) and some of the originators like Lee Perry and Mad Professor continue to produce new material.


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