Album Review: Super Hi-Fi’s Dub to the Bone

Super Hi-Fi

Dub to the Bone

Electric Cowbell Records

Release Date: December 4, 2012

 

Track Listing

1.     Washingtonian

2.     Ti Tro Tro (Beverley Road All-Stars Remix)

3.     Neolithic

4.     We Will Begin Again (DJ Trainwreck Remix)

5.     Q Street (Subatomic Sound Remix)

6.     Tri Tro Tro

7.     Public Option (Prince Polo Dub)

8.     Single Payer (Victor Rice Remix)

 

Personnel

Alex Asher – trombone

Ryan Snow – trombone

Will Grafe – guitar

Ezra Gale – bass, guitar

Madhu Siddappa –drums

Chris Mulhauser – guitar on “Q Street (Subatomic Remix) and “Single Payer (Victor Rice Remix)”

Todd Perlmutter – drums on “Q Street (Subatomic Remix) and “Single Payer (Victor Rice Remix)”

Adam Dobson – trombone on “Washingtonian”

Foulso Minny – percussion on “Trio Tro Tro”

 

Brooklyn’s Super Hi-Fi got their somewhat unlikely start when production duo Sound Liberation Front’s Quoc Pham asked his cohort Ezra Gale (also a founding member of the critically acclaimed Afrobeat band Aphrodesia) to get a band together for the pair’s monthly “Afro-Dub Sessions” party at the now-defunct Rose Live Music venue in Williamsburg. Super Hi-Fi, whose very name is a loving homage to Jamaican and African cultures – the word “Super” is apparently popularly used among African bands and “Hi-Fi” is a term frequently used with Jamaican soundsystem crews – was the house band for the “Afro-Dub Sessions” party, and they would be paired with top-name producers and DJs such as Victor Rice, Prince Polo, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others.        

   In some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that Gale’s newest project pays loving homage to the influences and sounds of dub music but with a contemporary sensibility – his other band, Aphrodesia also creates music in the same fashion and eventually had the privilege and honor of playing at Fela Kuti’s Shrine, the spiritual home of Afrobeat, in Lagos, Nigeria. On Super Hi-Fi’s debut, renowned dub engineer Prince Polo had the band record Dub to the Bone on analog tape, along with vintage tape delay machines such as the Echoplex, the Space Echo, and others to create a vintage sound for Gale’s compositions.

   The choice to record on analog makes sense but it also pays off – and pays off big time. Not only does it create the vintage dub sound with loving accuracy, it’s a much richer, fuller and warmer sound. And with the horn section being led by trombone (a rather unusual choice for dub, at least), it creates a regal, concert hall filling sound. Listening to this album several times before reviewing it, I couldn’t help but think of two pretty interesting similarities – the Josh Roseman Unit’s Treats for the Nightwalker, as it was the first jazz album in quite some time led by trombone, and it’s heavily influenced by hip hop and dub; but also there’s a brass band that I’ve caught several times in the subway and their sound just echoes off the walls and ceilings.

   The compositions on the album are impressive. While still maintaining, a cool, blissed out feel the material borrows bits and pieces from other genres in subtle ways. At the end of “Neolithic,” the song begins to sound more like a modern jazz composition, complete with an impressive guitar solo by Will Grafe. “We Will Begin Again, (DJ Trainwreck remix)” probably has the most psychedelic feel of the album but it also has a cinematic feel and bears an uncanny similarity to the Bombay Royale. “Q Street (Subatomic Remix)” has big, hip hop beats added to the spaced out dub, and it makes the song sound perfect for riding the New York City subway. “Tri Tro Tro,” has elements of surf rock and Latin-percussion, and it creates a Dub sound that hasn’t likely been heard before. “Single Payer (Victor Rice Remix) has a sequence where they playfully reference the classic reggae song “Murder She Wrote” for a couple of bars before the song continues, as normal. The compositions are both subtly and playfully complex. You’ll hear several genres bended and molded at various trippy ways and at unexpected angles. As a debut, it’s impressive, and shows that Gale has quite a future as a composer.