There must have been something in the water in 2021, as Balearic Beat took a definite dive into the echo chamber, and dub. I`m guessing – going on my own noggin – that a lot of this was down to folks still reeling from Andrew Weatherall`s sad, sudden, passing, and consequently paying tribute to the chunky, bass-heavy sound that he loved. Tracks like Craig Bratley`s cracking collaboration with Amy Douglas, No In Between, T-Woc`s terrific E.P. for Strangelove, Vendetta Suite`s whopping Warehouse Rock, and Jesse Fahnestock`s fabulously freaked 10.40 tweaks of Spacemen 3 and The Beta Band, for Paisley Dark, must have been made with Weatherall and A Love From Outer Space in mind. However, I suspect that the people at Test Pressing also played a part. Site head honcho, Apiento, enlisted the mighty Mad Professor for a seriously stripped-back shot at his Things We Do For Love, reissued on World Building. Test Press-er and Soft Rock-er Piers Harrison delivered a 10” dubplate of B:Dum B:Dum Sound`s in-demand Istanbul, on his imprint, Mysticisms. Fellow regular contributor, Tom Dubwise, comprehensively and categorically, championed Om Unit`s weird and wonderful, destined to be highly influential, Acid Dub Studies, while Toby Tobias – I think born on the same day as Apiento, and, for sure, a close spar – totally transformed Desmond Chambers` `80s reggae oddity, Haly Gully, for Kalita.
Certain “jazzers” were not to be outdone. Diabolical Liberties` “double drop” for On The Corner, the sharp, smart, Pacify My Night Bus is a personal highlight, tune of the year. Boasting “the heaviest bassline ever”, and tossed off with Earl Zinger / General Rubbish’s typical tongue-in-cheek panache, lyrically, it`s on the fucking money, deep, man. Betamax Vs. Clive Bell’s riotous, rhythmic, father and son improvisations for Byrd Out – rattling, funky, spiritual / psyche / kosmische workouts – also exerted some extreme Echoplex`ed action – particularly on the blinding Break Mode overdub of Sub-Vision.
Since producing The Slits seminal debut, Cut, in 1979, Dennis Bovell has probably never stopped being in demand, but 2021 saw old “Blackbeard” experience a renewed purple patch – righteously revisiting his work on The Pop Group`s game-changing Y, and teaming up with fellow veteran Rebel Dread, Don Letts, collaborating on several tracks for the latter`s LateNightTales Version Excursion. An undertaking full of treasure, and made especially essential by the inclusion of Gaudi`s rocking re-rub of Letts`past, in the shape of a “well balearic” dub of B.A.D.`s already well balearic E = MC2. Dennis also helped to reactivate and relaunch A Mountain Of One – blasting the duo’s Custard`s Last Stand into outer / inner space – and then added a stoned, sinister rinse to the sad, confessional, sleaze of Jarv Is` Swanky Modes**.
Another deviant dub pioneer, Jah Wobble pumped his Bandcamp page with brand new stuff throughout the pandemic – with Lovers Rock Dub landing on vinyl for Record Store Day – while the other king of punk / dub collisions, Adrian Sherwood, spiked Harvey Sutherland`s Jouissance, with some serious psychedelic juice. Sub-titled “Pure Enjoyment”, the way he’s flipping faders it does seem like he’s having a lot of fun. Sherwood’s label, ON-U, also remastered and reissued the entire back catalogue of New Age Steppers – the band who defined that post-punk dub sound, and in the process popularized both genre criss-crossing collectives and the application of reverb and delay aesthetics to musics other than reggae.
Other reissues that skanked in an offbeat, balearic fashion, blurring, fusing, musical boundaries, and pushing dub to the fore, numbered Seven Hills Records retrospective of Brum`s Rockers Hi-Fi brilliant hybridization of reggae and house, Akuphone`s similar spotlight on The Rootsman`s surprisingly eclectic Essentials 1996-1998, and Isle Of Jura`s unearthing of Brixton-born `90s curiosity, Ambient Warrior`s Dub`s Journey – packed with off-the-wall dancers, and Cafe del Mar moments.
Then there was Light In The Attic`s beautifully sleeved (a collage by the legendary Linder Sterling) leaf through Leslie Winer`s three-decade spanning provocative portfolio, When I Hit You, You’ll Feel It. I have to confess that I’ve been a bit obsessed with Leslie Winer since Superior Viaduct first reissued her first solo album, Witch, back in 2014. It was a record that I never managed to find in the `90s, so it was a bit of a “grail”. Finally hearing it, I was, of course, floored. I mean I’m a sucker for bass, and The Beats, and kinda “spoken word” in general, but there`s something incredibly genuine about Leslie’s Burroughs-ian prose and poetry. You know, where the cut-ups, and non-sequiturs, seem fluid, not contrived, sorta like someone who`s high telling you a story, their darting stream of consciousness clearly containing a deeper meaning. The Light In The Attic package prompted me to revisit albums by Bomb The Bass, Grace Jones, Sinead O`Connor, and 12s by the feted Max / Lomax, and then Hoover-up all of the Leslie-related vinyl that I didn’t already own. She’s truly an unsung superstar.
I couldn’t find a sleek, smooth, way to slot some scuffed, booming, warehouse, street soul, into the text with the rest of my recommendations, but final mentions must go to Ruf Dug`s rude sub-seduced manhandling of Moonlovers, by Super FU, and Carista`s cavernous recreation of 30 / 70`s Tastes Like Freedom.
**Where`s Mr. Cocker`s novel? We need one.
2021/12/30: Putting this piece, and mix, together yesterday, I did make one glaring omission. Sorting through this year’s more chilled stuff today, I found this, which I absolutely love.
Sorry Al, Peter, and Justin.
Spacemen 3 – How Does it Feel (10.40s Terrace Moonshine Dub)
30 / 70 – Tastes Like Freedom (Carista Remix)
Rockers Hi Fi – Sexy Selector
TWOC – Weirum
Betamax Vs Clive Bell – Sub Vision (Break Move Overdub)
Diabolical Liberties – Pacify My Night Bus
Om Unit – Bristol Theme
Lesile Winer – Round Up Ready
Jarv Is – Swanky Modes (Dennis Bovell Dub)
Jah Wobble – Lovers Rock
New Age Steppers – Private Armies Dub
The Pop Group – She Is…(Dennis Bovell Dub)
Om Unit – Ghosts
Ambient Warrior – The Good The Bad And The Dub
Desmond Chambers – Holy Gully (Toby Tobias Version)
Craig Bratley & Amy Douglas – No In Between (Ashigaru Dub)
B Dum B Dum Sound – Do / Dont
Gaudi Meets The Rebel Dread – E=MC2
Apiento – Things You Do For Love (Mad Professor Mix)
The Rootsman – Into The Light (Edit)
A Mountain Of One – Custards Last Stand (DUBfinity)
The Vendetta Suite – Warehouse Rock
Harvey Sutherland – Jouissance (Adrian Sherwood Pure Enjoyment Dub)