Friday, January 22, 2010
Dub: A (very) brief history...
This entry was created to accompany my interview with author and musician Michael Veal (author of Dub). Readers unfamiliar with dub as a musical genre can check out the musical examples I've posted below for reference. The sound samples are posted for educational purposes only. A ton of great dub music is available via mainstream outlets like Amazon and iTunes as well as via smaller labels you can track down on the internet.
Note: I will probably tweak and update this page over time with more detailed information and additional music samples. For now, I hope it reads like a beginner's guide to the music.
Here's a great early example of producer King Tubby's early experiments with dub production featuring the band The Dynamites: Kingston Town Dub. Recording date is probably 1972 or 1973. Note the fragmentation of the original vocal track - a poetic technique Veal writes about in his book.
Dub producers often take an existing completed track of music and - using the recording studio - rearrange individual parts, add various effects to the tracks, and even compose new musical parts essentially remixing the song into something new. The compositional game played when dealing with the preexisting material is one of the many things that fascinates me about dub.
Here's a song from Massive Attack's album Protection, Better Things (featuring Tracey Thorn) It's a very dub inspired track, but not necessarily "dub."
Now check out dub producer The Mad Professor's version of Better Things from the album No Protection (The Mad Professor vs Massive Attack): Better Things (Bumper Ball Dub)
Producer Lee Scratch Perry at Black Ark Studios (photo by Adrian Boot courtesy of UrbanImageTv)
Cow Thief Skank is but one example of producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's wonderfully bizarre productions. Veal examines the history, mixing styles, and musical innovations of Perry along with several other Jamaican producers in his book. Cow Thief Skank assembles portions from at least four entirely different tracks of music into a poetic collage that reminds me of the tape sliced compositions of the pioneers of musique concrete.
My understanding is that this particular track was not produced at Perry's legendary Black Ark Studios. If I'm wrong, please feel free to correct me in the comments section.
Sound System (photo by Adrian Boot courtesy of UrbanImageTv)
Dub was / is conceived to be played through outdoor sound systems for long nights of partying and dancing. Above is an image of some gear from a sound system. However, in addition to high volume outdoor broadcast, there is a strain of dub that is designed for more contemplative, interior listening atmospheres (i.e. "headphone music).
Public Image Limited (photo by Adrian Boot courtesy of UrbanImageTv)
Careering comes from PIL's second heavily dub influenced album Second Edition. This band featured former Sex Pistol's vocalist (and reggae freak) John Lydon on vocals and the formidable self-taught Jah Wobble on electric bass. PIL Guitarist Keith Levene handled much of the actual arranging and production of PIL's "post rock" recordings inspired by both punk rock at its most avant-garde as well as the music of the Jamaican producers Veal writes about in Dub. Other bands who expounded upon the compositional strategies of dub include The Clash, Pere Ubu, and Cabaret Voltaire (there are many more).
Posted by Chris Becker at 9:47 AM