Formed almost 20 years ago, the Brooklyn-based act Dub Trio — Grammy Award nominated-Stu Brooks (bass), DP Holmes (guitar) and Joe Tomino (drums) — have firmly established a critically applauded boundary pushing approach to dub that incorporates metal, punk rock, alt rock and shoegaze through the release of four albums, 2004’s full-length debut Exploring the Dangers Of, 2006’s New Heavy, 2008’s Another Sound Is Dying and 2011’s IV.
Reconvening for a two week reunion at a tiny Brooklyn rehearsal room in 2018, the trio began working on the material for their fifth album, The Shape of Dub To Come. Featuring collaborations with Melvins‘ King Buzzo, Mastodon‘s Troy Sanders, Meshell Ndgeocello and an impressive array of others, The Shape of Dub To Come finds the act actively pushing dub into as many new sonic territories as possible — while serving as their first release through New Damage Records.
“Them Thing Deh,” The Shape of Dub To Come‘s latest single finds Dub Trio collaborating with Skindred’s Benji Webbe on a strutting single featuring sinuous and propulsive bass line, twinkling keys paired with Webbe’s soulful vocals, shuffling reggae riddims and reverb-drenched effects. And while seemingly centered around the prerequisite irie vibes, “Them Thing Deh” is fueled by the sociopolitical concerns of our current moment.
“We’re putting this song out for the love of it. We knew we wanted to do a track that paid homage to our fore-fathers of reggae and dub, rhythm section greatness, Sly & Robbie,” Dub Trio’s Stu Brooks says in press notes. “They have been an endless source of inspiration to us as a band from the beginning. So, as helicopters swarmed over Hollywood during BLM protests, my wife and I felt compelled to finally break quarantine. As we approached Hollywood and Vine to join in solidarity with the protesters, ‘Them Thing Deh’ happened to be the soundtrack in my headphones. Feeling the anger we share with the BLM movement, the lyric ‘got to keep your cool; really spoke to me as I could feel the tension in the air. That week, we quickly put the rhythm tracks together, recording from 3 different states, with the help of Roger Rivas on organ and keys and hit up our old friend, legend Benji Webbe from the UK band, Skindred. Benji is the ultimate genre-masher, soulfully clashing metal, reggae, punk, dub, dancehall…all the sh*t we love!”
Paris-based quintet Knights of Mandala (KOM) is a dub music project that meshes modern jazz, French electro-dub, urban style with geek culture — particularly, comic books, manga, video games and sci-fi as a way of inspiring imagination and the possibilities of new worlds. And whether they play as a live band with instruments or with synthesizers and other electronics with their live machine set up, Knights of Mandala’s primary mission is to make listeners dance and travel through the power of their imagination.
Since their formation three years ago, the Parisian dub act have released three EPs. And like countless acts across the globe, they haven’t been able to play live shows — but 2020 has seen them writing and recording new material, including their latest single, the hypnotic and thumping “Wooden Prison.” Centered around shimmering and trance-inducing sitar playing by Khoe-Wa, skittering, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and reverb-drenched keys and effects, “Wooden Prison” effortlessly bridges East and West while pointedly calling out the modern condition: humanity is imprisoned in a world of rigid, soul-crushing routine that we must all resist and escape.
Directed by Thomas Restout, the recently released video starts parkour athlete Léo Urban doing his thing in the woods and in an urban environment — but throughout, there’s a sense that Urban is actively bringing himself and his soul back to nature.
“Wooden Prison” will appear on Knights of Mandala’s Urban Cycle mixtape, which will be released through Weta Records at the end of the year.
Led by Jon Panic, the Sydney, Australia-based roots reggae and dub act Black Bird Hum have spent the past four years touring across the continent, becoming a rising name in the Aussie reggae and festival scene. And although “My Side” is their first single released through Denver-based funk and soul label Color Red, the Aussie band’s connection to the label runs very deep: Jeff Reis (drums) had spent 15 years playing in Denver‘s scene, performing with labelmates ATOMGA during that band’s formative years before relocating to Sydney.
Centered around fluttering flute, a sinuous and two-step inducing groove, twinkling keys and laid-back riddims, Little Green’s sultry vocals and an infectious horn line composed by Greg Chilcott (trumpet), “My Side” is the band’s homage to some of their favorite artists — Roots Radics, Gregory Isaacs, and Hollie Cook but with a modern take. Developed and honed over months of touring. “My Side” is a road tested song that feels both modern and timeless as it tells an age-old tale of good love gone horribly and confusingly wrong. Most of us have been there and have reflected on what was, what could have been and what happened with a vivid preciseness. The B side is a classic and very trippy dub mix that further emphasizes that deep and sinuous two-step groove with reverb-drenched everything. Listening to the dub mix is an enveloping trip into groove, if you dig what I’m saying?
“The groove got it all started, the horn line kept it going, and then Little Green (Amy) singing over the top was all we needed to know it was our next release.,” Black Bird Hum’s Jon Panic says of their latest single. “All our songs are fun live, but this pocket is probably the best to drop into. It’s a nod to all of our favorite reggae artists and the mad grooves they’ve given us.”
Color Red · Death by Dub – Kibosh | Color Red Music
Led by founding members and creative masterminds Dan Africano and Scott Flynn, the Denver-based act Death by Dub is a deeply collaborative effort between its founders and a collection of the Mile High City’s finest players, in which everyone equally contributes their input and talents — typically during the studio sessions, with the studio being an integral part of the project.
The Denver-based act’s latest single “Kibosh” derives its name from the death hood, a condemned prison would hear leading up to their beheading. Centered around a mournful and lyrical horn melody, shimmering Rhodes, stuttering riddims and reverb and delay-drenched dub effects, the track evokes the slow walk a condemned prisoner would take to the gallows, before ending with a slow fade out. The single will appear on the band’s forthcoming EP Resurrection, which is slated for an September 18, 2020 release through Color Red.
Over the past few months, I’ve written quite a bit about the emerging and mysterious French electronic music artist, producer and latest JOVM mainstay artist
LutchamaK. The Frenchartist and producer grew up as a voracious music fan and listen, who listened to and loved an eclectic array of music including hip-hop. dub, classical, rock, techno and a lengthy list of others. Unsurprisingly, while his work is deeply influenced by techno, it reflects a devotion to a lifelong eclecticism: his first two EPs, which he managed to create during lunch breaks at his day job featured material that meshed elements of techno, house and EDM among others.
Now, as you may recall the French JOVM mainstay has been gearing up to release his full-length debut Invisible Realm but in the meantime, he has managed to be incredibly prolific. Before the album’s release, LutchamaK has another EP Joy Inside — and interestingly enough, he has released two singles off the EP: the shimmering and slow-burning dub of “The Dream,” which is full of irie vibes, twinkling keys, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line and dreamy vocals coming out of the hazy mix, and the house music banger “I Do,” which features a hypnotic groove centered around wobbling low end, synth arpeggios and a sultry vocal hooks with subtle modulation. Both tracks will remind the listener of a producer, who masters several different styles and sounds — simultaneously.
Comprised of DJ and production team Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the internationally renowned Washington, DC-based act Thievery Corporation have developed a reputation for a globe spanning, genre-defying sound that features elements of electronica, dub, bossa nova, acid jazz, reggae, Indian classical music, hip-hop, Middle Eastern music and others, and for collaborating with a diverse array of artists across a variety of genres and styles, including Rob Myers, Loulou Ghelichkhani, Natalia Clavier, Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell, Mr. Lif, Jeff Franca, Ashish Vyas and a lengthy list of others, who have contributed lyrics in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian and Hindi.
Now, as you may recall, the duo’s chart topping 2017 effort, The Temple of I & I was deeply influenced by Jamaica’s sounds and rhythms, and as a result the album may have arguably been their most reggae and dub-influenced album to date — and perhaps, their most straightforward as well. Interestingly, the duo’s latest album, Treasures from the Temple is a companion album to their 2017 album, and it features both original material and remixes from the Temple of I & I recording sessions at Geejam Studios in Port Antonio, Jamaica — with guest spots from LouLou Ghelichkhani, Mr. Lif, Sitali, Racquel Jones, Natalia Clavier and Notch.
Treasures from the Temple’s latest single “Waiting Too Long” features their long-time collaborator and American dancehall pioneer Notch, and the track is a soulful, two-step dub riddim, complete with a strutting horn arrangement, and while it sounds and feels warm and familiar, it’s a sweet love song about lovers, who have been through quite a bit, going to the club to dance, to enjoy themselves and forget about the world for a few hours — and how they’re specifically waiting for the DJ to play their song.
The recently released video for “Waiting Too Long” consists of rare footage shot in Jamaica in the late 70s and early 80s, and it captures a night out in a Jamaican club — singles and couples swaying and dancing, some with beer bottles in hand; a DJ making adjustments on his mixer as a vocalist passionately sings; in another room, men gamble and bullshit. It’s a Friday or Saturday night with people being — well, people. All seeking a small measure of joy, a connection with someone else, an escape from the drudgery of every day life.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the bulk of its almost 7 year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi. Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet can trace their origins back when the then-San Francisco-based Gale relocated to Brooklyn. Upon his arrival to the East Coast, Gale had been collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when he Gale was asked to get a band together for their then-month Afro-Dub Sessions Party in Williamsburg. And much like the Dig Deeper Soul Party and DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would feature some of dub’s top-tier producers and DJs including Victor Rice, Prince Polo, Subatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others spinning tunes — and then collaborating with a live band, fronted by Gale.
Initially, when Super Hi-Fi was founded, the intent was to translate some of the improvisatory mixing process of dub music to the live show; however with a short period of time, Gale and company had begun writing their own original material, most of which wound up comprising their critically applauded 2012 full-length debut Dub to the Bone. Building upon a growing profile, the band toured with national touring acts including JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, Beats Antique and John Brown’s Body, and then followed that with the release of Yule Analog, Vol 1. and Yule Analog, Vol. 2.
With the release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana last year, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet continued to push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And the band did so while creating their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take familiar and oft-played material into a bold, new territory while retaining fundamental elements of the original material.
Record Store Day (April 22, 2017) will see the release of the “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch and accompanying digital EP. The A side of the 7 inch finds Super Hi-Fi tackling The Beatles “I’m Only Sleeping,” and much like their take on Nirvana, Super Hi-Fi’s cooly strutting rendition of the beloved Beatles tune, finds the band retaining the original’s melody while effortlessly meshing elements of psychedelia, reverb full, groove and bass-heavy dub and the wild-improvisation of free jazz, all within the passage of a few bars. A number of reggae bands have taken on the Beatles — in fact, there was a lengthy 3 or 4 disc compilation featuring South American and Latin American reggae bands covering the Beatles; but no one sounds quite like them and no one completely reworks material into something so alien yet familiar either. The B side is a a wild and slow-burning take on The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” that begins with a furious, feedback and noisy, Jimi Hendrix-like opening that distorts the original’s opening. And while retaining the original’s melody, the band finds a groove and expands upon it in a spacious arrangement that allow the musicians to freely riff upon the melody in what may arguably be the most jazz-leaning bit of dub they’ve released to date, before ending with a coda that mischievously nods at The Beatles’ “Fixing A Hole,” which interestingly enough manages to be in a similar key.
The “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch will further cement the Brooklyn-based quintet’s reputation for a unique sound — and for tackling familiar and beloved material and boldly coming up with a wildly creative, imaginative reworks and reimaginings.
Comprised of the internationally renowned founding and primary members, the Washington, DC-based DJ and production duo Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, Thievery Corporation have developed a reputation for a sound that meshes elements of electronic music, dub, bossa nova, acid jazz, reggae, Indian classical musical, hip-hop and Middle Eastern music, as well as for collaborating with an diverse array of artists including Rob Myers, Loulou Ghelichkhani, Natalia Clavier, Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell, Mr. Lif, Jeff Franca, Ashish Vyas and others, who have contributed lyrics in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian and Hindi.
The duo’s forthcoming full-length effort, The Temple of I & I is slated for a February 10, 2017 release through the duo’s ESL Music and the album is deeply influenced by the sounds and riddims of Jamaica, making it arguably their most dub and reggae-influenced effort to date. And the album’s latest single “Let the Chalice Blaze” is a breezy and atmospheric bit of dub that subtly owes a debt to drum ‘n’ bass, smooth jazz and minimalist electronic — and they do so in a trippy yet funky fashion.
Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi can trace their origins to a rather unlikely beginning. Gale, who was a founding member of acclaimed San Francisco-based Afrobeat act Aphrodisia, an act that once played at Fela Kuti‘s famed Lagos, Nigeria-based night club The Shrine, had relocated to Brooklyn and was collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when Gale was asked to get a band together for Pham and Gale’s then-monthly Afro-Dub Sessions parties in Williamsburg. Much like DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would pair the live band fronted by Gale with the dub’s top-flight producers and DJs including Victor Rice, Prince Polo, Subatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others.
When Gale founded Super Hi-Fi, the project was initially intended to translate the improvisatory mixing process of dub to the live show; however, with the 2012 release of their critically applauded debut effort Dub to the Bone, a busy touring schedule in which they opened for nationally known acts like Rubblebucket, Beats Antique and John Brown’s Body, followed by the release of their Yule Analog Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, the project began to cement its growing reputation for crafting a unique and expansive take on dub and reggae.
With the recent release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And in typical Super Hi-Fi fashion, the members of the band manage to create their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take fairly familiar songs into bold, new territory.
Adding to the uniqueness of the release, Very Special Recordings, a small, boutique Brooklyn-based label founded by Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale, that specializes in releases cassettes that showcase the diverse of their borough’s and city’s music scene. Interestingly, while we all live in a world of Spotify playlists and streamable music that one never really owns, cassettes have seen something of a renaissance of late with several artists and labels releasing cassette only releases — and in some way, it’s a response against not just streaming services but against the trend towards technophilia for the sake of technophilia. While being relatively cheap to make and sell, a cassette tape does require a bit of effort — you’d have to go to a physical record store to purchase your favorite band’s new record and then bring it home to play; have a label or friend mail or give you a tape; and at the very least, you’ll probably listen to the whole tape, if not an entire side once. Plus, let’s not forget, that unless your favorite song is the first song or last song of a side, finding it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. And yet, if you remember buying cassettes at your local record store, as I do, it’s an experience that frankly I sometimes miss very dearly.
I recently spoke to Super Hi-Fi’s Ezra Gale about Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana, how the arranging and re-arranging process differs from Gale’s normal songwriting process, the band’s upcoming releases and more. Check it out below.
WRH: In the Q&As for The Joy of Violent Movement, we almost always begin with some fairly introductory stuff for readers. So let’s begin, shall we?
WRH: How did the members of the band meet?
Ezra Gale: I had an idea for a two trombone band and placed a Craigslist ad for trombone players which got exactly two responses, from Alex Asher and Ryan Snow, who became our first two trombone players. Everybody else I just met through other musicians.
WRH: How would you describe your sound?
EG: It’s dub, but I don’t know if it’s reggae.
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
EG: The last album I bought was Bowie‘s last album, Blackstar, which is just incredible.
WRH: Seminal albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind, U2’s Achtung Baby, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders, R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Superunknown and Down On The Upside, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy and others reaching important milestone anniversaries, it’s a bit surprising to me that to my knowledge more bands haven’t seriously begun to tackle them with more covers and more tribute albums, especially if you consider how many Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Beatles tribute albums have been released over the years. Why haven’t there been more Pearl Jam, U2, R.E.M. tributes and covers? And how did you come upon paying tribute to Nirvana?
EG: I really don’t know about those other bands, for us we started playing a version of “Something In the Way” a couple years ago, and we all sort of got the idea that maybe a whole album of Nirvana tunes could be interesting.
WRH: Much like your fantastic Christmas albums, Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana features a couple of very well-known songs such as In Utereo’s “Heart Shaped Box,” and their famous Unplugged cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” as well as some rather deeper cuts such as “Verse Chorus Verse,” their Incesticide cover of “Love Buzz” Nevermind’s “Something In The Way” and “Polly.” What inspired you to choose those songs to tackle instead of something more tried and true?
EG: Well, initially I wanted to do all really obscure ones. Nirvana is a band whose famous songs have been played to death and I don’t know if anyone really needs to hear another version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, for example. But I know them from when Bleach came out and they were just this really great, intense band from Seattle that not many people knew- my college band even opened for them then, randomly. So I wanted to spotlight some of those lesser-known songs of theirs. But then, I think i was riding my bike and I suddenly started hearing “Heart Shaped Box” in this really slow, weird way, so we ended up doing that one. Ultimately it’s just about giving each song a different treatment and finding something new to do with it, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before.
WRH: How do you go about re-arranging material that’s fairly familiar in a way that adds your particular spin to it — while maintaining something familiar? And how does the process of re-arranging material differ from your normal songwriting process?
EG: It is different than a normal songwriting process. This album was very similar to our two Christmas albums (“Yule Analog” Vols. I and II), in that the goal was to take familiar material and make it sound different. And like in arranging those Christmas songs, I made some rules for myself doing it, which were that the melody line had to be the same, but everything else around it could change. So the rhythms are obviously very different, but also, Nirvana was a band with only one singer and we have two trombones, so in a lot of these versions the second trombone part is made up- like in “Verse Chorus Verse”, “Heart Shaped Box” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially. And also the chords are quite different in some of these, “Polly” and “Where Did You Sleep” especially are pretty different chord changes than the Nirvana versions.
My attitude towards cover versions is just that there’s no point in doing them if all you’re doing is to play it like the original version. No matter how great the original song is, I don’t ever want to regurgitate what someone else has done- go listen to the original if you want that. At the same time, I think it should be recognizable as the original song, somehow. So the challenge of taking material and sort of shaping it into something different that still has echoes of the original song is something I really enjoy doing.
WRH: While doing a little research for this interview, I learned that you’re currently working on your sophomore full-length effort, as well as Beatles/Police 45 for Record Store Day. Could you tell us a little bit about those projects?
EG: Yes, we are about 80% done with the mixing for the new full-length album, which is going to be called “The Blue and White” and it will be our second LP of all-original music. It’s quite different I think, there are lots of vocals and different sounds for us. It was recorded and mixed all onto tape too, which has been a real pain in some ways (!) but is so, so worth it- it sounds amazing I think. It will be out in the springtime sometime I think, on vinyl, somehow or other, we haven’t figured out yet.
And then the single is done and will be released on Electric Cowbell Records for Record Store Day in April, it’s the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” which was actually recorded for our “Dub to the Bone” album but left off it, and a version of The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” which we recorded for the new album, both extremely whacked-out and different versions, I can’t wait to play it for people.
WRH What’s next for the band?
EG: We haven’t been playing live that much the last few months because I’ve been so focused on finishing these albums, so once we’re done completely with the new LP I’m looking forward to playing a lot more in the new year.