I’ve been reading Michael E. Veal`s fairly academic text on dub. The book, in its summarizing final chapter, puts forward a theory for the music’s use of echo as a nostalgic device. The snippets of song sending listeners back to the first time they heard it. To my mind this idea is flawed, in that it`s dependent on a person knowing the original piece – which, in my case at least, is so often not true. Rather I think that these shards of sound are actually psychoactive. That the brain latches on to the broken lyrics, and solos, and searches to fill in the blanks. The imagination fired. Following, trying to complete the story. Chasing the debris through the feedback and decay. This is why I believe that dub draws you in, why it`s such as meditative music. Your head attempts to make sense of it, in the process getting lost, cast adrift, in its audio ocean, sonic sea. While the record rotates releasing the listener from reality, all other thought. Well, that’s how it works for me.
There are some seriously strong dubs here, from London’s Tuff Scout collective, which celebrate the capital`s specialist reggae record stores. Legendary places of purchase, like Daddy Kool, Dub Vendor, and Hawkeye. The set is super varied, playing like a mixtape, I guess, on a musical journey from shop to shop. Segueing from sirens and snatches of vocal – hinting at sorrow, sadness, and heartbreak – hymns haunted by horns and ghostly organ, to proud, strident struts – beats lithe, limber, and a little unpredictable, like a boxer’s punches working the heavy bag. From ripples of rhythm guitar, to lighting flashes of phased fragmented fretwork, and storms of shipwrecking sound waves. Full of the crackle and fizz of truncated transmissions, cut off in their midst, sent into whirlpool-like spins, skittering in infinitely echoed orbits. Where percussion, rattling righteously, is filtered and run back on itself, and woodwinds whistle while detached, disembodied drum rolls try to tie together what’s left of the tune. The amassed mutant mixing desk maneuvers merging instruments into a fogged, bounced down hybridized whole, countered by clusters of crisp, crystal clear, keys. Stoned digi-dub thuds ring with rimshots resembling shattering ram-raided shop fronts. Boisterous bogle-ing bumps Bollywood strings. Bashment tribal dances with militant steppers. Clattering collisions cop Lee Perry`s Black Ark cowbell. Melodica lines reprise Pablo`s Far East Sound. Powerful, deep, plunges into devastating delay serve to shake you, momentarily, to your senses, in textbook treatments of dread, tension, and release. The closing Peckings Vibration providing a cool, calm, moment. It`s hovering mist of Hammond B3 perhaps a homage to Jackie Mittoo`s magical After Christmas.
The album comes with some equally strong accompanying insert text from the brilliant Steve Barrow – describing the excitement of digging, just plain shopping, for vinyl, and the sense of community that once surrounded this almost entirely physical pastime. It would be great if Steve got the chance to expand this short essay into a book. There could be chapter on each shop – store history, staff, notable customers, and tales around key, synonymous, tunes stocked…
You can pick up a copy of Out On The Floor Dub directly from Tuff Scout.