Dub Bomb!, Baby

The influence of Jamaican remixes has spread far and wide since British punk rockers took to dub reggae in the 1970s.

As I said, dub is not a genre!


Dub's no longer strictly for reggae connoisseurs; now everyone on the horizon's got their version. Below are four recent albums that couldn't be more different from one another, all mining this breakthrough idea in modern art, the shiniest and stankiest Jamaican musical export of them all.

We knew it was underground but this is ridiculous: Dub crawls from obscurity into popular consciousness.
We knew it was underground but this is ridiculous: Dub crawls from obscurity into popular consciousness.

Dub as texture:Pole, Pole (Mute): Stefan Betke is probably the best-known proselytizer of dub's Berlin school, unofficially founded in the early '90s by minimalist techno heads at the Basic Channel label, looking for a deeper bottom than even Detroit could provide. Some might mistake his fourth album's accessible forays into vocals (underground MC Fat Jon) and dub jazzercises (featuring saxophonist Thomas Haas and bassist August Engkilde) as commercial moves. Though how head music crafted from intestine-rattling low frequencies, ocean-sized open spaces and snap-crackle-pop riddims can be construed as such is beyond me.

Dub as compositional tool:Out Hud, S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D. (Kranky): The one indie-dance dub band to pressure drop if you're citing only one, this Sacramento-turned-Brooklyn quintet learned its dub lessons from On-U and Tortoise records, and its krush grooves from New York circa '82 (disco meets post-punk) and Detroit circa '88 (techno, baby). Now their instrumental white-funk flows while their sensimilla grows -- the percussion tracks percolating with sinewy echoes and the minimalist lines stacked into short, choppy spirals. Experimental modern music that will also rock a party.

Dub as refabricated memory:Easy Star All-Stars, Dub Side of the Moon (Easy Star): The jam-kids and classic rockers' choice, and not just because it's a dub-wise take on Pink Floyd's Hall of Fame monolith. The All-Stars, who include Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod, approach this remix as PhD students, learned in all classic dubology but unlikely to rock the boat beyond the initial inspiration. That said, no pothead Floyd fan could possibly escape the gravitational pull of "Great Dub in the Sky" and "Any Dub You Like."

Dub as DNA:Sean Paul, Dutty Rock (VP/Atlantic): This rump-shaker of a dancehall crossover rocking every decent hip-hop and pop radio station in the country isn't stocked with dubs. But the digital designs of modern dancehall producers like Steely & Cleevie, Troyton and "Lenky" Marsden are so informed by the language of "rewind, remix" that splitting hairs is pointless. Pick up the 12's of "Gimme the Light" or "Get Busy," and throw on the instrumental versions to hear how dub's finally infiltrated America's Top 40.

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