Rock and Reggae have a had a long and troubled relationship, in sickness they have produced the catastrophic likes of The Police and Skindred and in health the excellent Bad Brains and the more experimental post-punk bands of the Bristol scene. Unfortunately these highlights cannot outweigh the terrible atrocities committed by their nemeses.
Redressing the balance are Brooklyn’s Dub Trio who have perfected the art of crossover, whilst avoiding one of my pet hates – nostalgia; there are plenty of dub/reggae/ska bands who stay true to ‘roots’, and whilst there is a huge place in my heart for the sounds of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Youth etc. for contemporary artists to imitate their predecessors is tantamount to necrophilia.
Dub Trio on the other hand have an astonishingly modern take on King Tubby et al. Their early work in particular is much more overtly dub with influence from rock, hip-hop and electronica.
It is not just the dub elements that sound up-to-date as songs like ‘Cool out and Co-exist’ demonstrate, which ends in a syncopated NYC hardcore style breakdown. Dated 80’s metal thrash this is not. Expect dissonance and interesting rhythmic shifts perhaps with a tinge of everyone’s favourite tech metal overlords Meshuggah
One of the most their most impressive feats is that they emulate a genre borne out of the studio in a live context requiring a hefty degree of multitasking from the trio who all ‘dub’ themselves and each other with a complex array of samplers, delays and FX pedals. Furthermore the individual instrumental talent of each of the members really shines through, particularly the drummer who I can only describe as INSANE, who undoubtably has incredible chops but also plays ridiculously tastefully, never sounding OTT.
It is when Dub Trio start to meddle with their composite genres that things become really interesting, switching seamlessly between styles several times perhaps in a single song. This of course represents the next logical step-up from bands like Bad Brains who always segregated their reggae and hardcore into separate songs (Bonus muso/nerd fact – Dub Trio’s debut was issued on ROIR the same label that released Bad Brains’ debut). What makes mixing these two particular genres within a song interesting is due to their juxtaposition.
Dub is renowned for being fairly sparse in terms of both texture and arrangement whereas metal tends to denser, faster and more angry. On the other hand their must be some similarities in order for the two to be compatible both are more interested in rhythmic elements rather than melody, a much more tenuous link is that both can be described as ‘heavy’.
‘Illegal Dub’ the opener from their second album ‘New Heavy’ begins as a breakneck speed hardcore punk ditty, briefly mutating into a dubby breakdown before ascending back into what is a mixture of the two – reggae influenced drumming and rhythm yet with distortion and feedback filling in the sparse reggae sound in a particularly satisfying way.
By their third album the dub influence becomes more subtle, more abstract; ‘Felication’ starts like a track that could belong to Refused’s ‘Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent’ which then somehow morphs into something more resembling the work of Explosions In The Sky, though with the benefit of an ounce more punch and intensity than those post-rock wimps could ever aim for… Whilst sonically interesting this also is conceptually fairly interesting, hinting at the often neglected link between post-rock and reggae as can be heard in the albums of Tortoise.
Whilst most of the band’s music is instrumental, two tracks feature the talents of a certain Mr. Mike Patton. Unfortunately in my opinion these are perhaps their weakest work despite my undying love for Patton, what makes this worse is that the first of these collaborations is that it is perhaps their most recognised song appearing on Patton’s solo outing ‘Peeping Tom’. Nonetheless these tracks are worth a listen, just don’t prioritise them over the rest of the bands superior output.
I’ll leave you with this ragga-jungle tune to keep you busy till next time, it’s a corker!