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White Noise

Saturday, 18 June 2011

12. Rhythm & Sound – W/ the Artists

(Not the best cover, I know)
King in my empire 

Dub evolved from the stripping away of vocals from reggae tracks for emcees to include their own lyrics or for audience participation on Jamaican soundsystems, and also gave way to the importance of producer as performer raising the fame of the likes of King Tubby and Lee Perry. But dub has always been about contraction, stripping away the excessive noise of reggae to hew a refined, purer expression of the soul of the music; rhythm and sound. Here the Berlin dub duo contract the help of seven of reggae crew The Wackies to superb effect, and provide a pure interpretation of the genre rich in condensed low-end sound and layered vocals.

Every track on this album is an essential dub cut, and the authenticity lent by the original reggae singers brings an enormous amount of feeling to the sparse, echoey soundscapes. Reggae legend Cornel Campbell and songstress Jennifer Lara kick off the LP with two variations on the same track, King In My Empire and Queen In My Empire respectively, and both are fantastic. The emptied soundscapes are not static either, while retaining the warmth and soul always present in even the sparest dub, they accommodate the vocalists flawlessly; stripped down to the core for Paul St. Hilaire's layered vocals in Jah Rule and picking up a more recognisable reggae beat for Shalom's atmospheric We Been Troddin'. You'll come to love every track on this LP, I have a soft spot for Love Joy's emotive turn as the cuckolded narrator of Best Friend but every turn is a triumph, making this one of the best recent dub releases and a fantastic soundtrack to the summer nights.


11. Washed Out – Life of Leisure EP

Feel it all around

Washed Out (or Ernest Greene) is a big cat on the chillwave scene, influencing it heavily from its glo-fi beginnings and in this, his most accomplished work to date (awaiting the new LP due out over the summer), you can easily see why. This EP evokes images of leafing through degrading snapshots of old sunny holidays, gauzy synth-pop cloaked in nostalgia and gorgeously hazy vocals.

The EP is a set of 6 beautiful tracks filtered through an 80s electronic haze; with video-gamey effects punctuating the jaded vocals that slip in and out of comprehensibility. Poppier cuts like New Theory and Lately are approachable and enchanting, while woozy centrepiece Feel It All Around delights with cheap synths and an infectious electronic chord that will haunt you long after the track is over. The range, too, is impressive, Hold Out is a more forceful song that alarms as much as it delights, while gorgeous closer You'll See It races with fluttering melodies and delights with its masterfully subdued production. Everything on this EP is heavily treated and faded away, evoking a nostalgic core that gives it a powerful warmth. Greene also chose to cut most of the tracks short without an outro, giving a pleasingly unfinished and decayed touch to the sounds. Chillwave is one of the most dedicated of summer genres, and this EP is indisputably one of its best moments.


10. Augustus Pablo – King David's Melody

King David's Melody

Dedicated Rastafarian Pablo named this album referencing spiritual leader Haile Selassie's claims to be descended from King David, a man whose flute and harp could soothe the heart and calm the soul. And a more appropriate name would be hard to find, as this is one of the finest and most relaxing dub records you'll find. Pablo's distinctive melodica stakes a claim as primary instrument in each track, but the expert compositions evoke a warmth that ties each track together with a cool vibe that's more self-assured and laid-back than many of his contemporaries.

The album is fantastic to listen to as a whole, lulling you into calm with warm beats and a rich composition that has all the right details. As a result, it's hard to pick out standout tracks. Opener and title track King David's Melody certainly makes you take notice with its grand intro, but quickly shapes up to be a loose and vibrant composition exhibiting all the brilliant aspects to come across the album. Elsewhere Mr. Bassie is a soothingly cheerful track with some great elastic melodica-lines, while penultimate track Cornerstone Dub cements the album title's reference to the king's magically relaxing instruments and Sufferers Trod has an inspired bass part that's a real treat for your speakers. Play this album from start to finish and let it massage your mind into the relaxed stupor that we all really deserve, don't we?


9. The Velvet Underground - Loaded

Who Loves the Sun

No one's going to claim that Loaded is The Velvet Underground's best album. White Light/ White Heat is always going to be their avant-garde masterpiece, and The Velvet Underground and Nico is without a doubt one of the greatest and musically most influential albums ever recorded. But it was on Loaded where The Velvet Underground finally lived up to Lou Reed's claim that they were a “rock'n'roll band from Long Island” - far from levelling this as an insult, I'm just saying this is the only time the band made an unashamedly fun and sunny rock & roll record.

From appropriately sunny opener Who Loves the Sun with its simple but gorgeous construction and brilliantly melodramatic lyrics (“Who loves the sun / who cares that it makes plants grow / who cares what it does since you broke my heart”) to the restrained and beautifully bittersweet closer Oh! Sweet Nuthin' this album shines with the perfect combination of sunny approachability and what can only be called damn good songwriting. Elsewhere I Found A Reason rehashes an old theme with a admirable purity of approach and an uncommon fragility, and tracks like Sweet Jane and Rock & Roll are effectively classics before they've even got going, Reed spitting out lyrical gems at every turn. The album isn't perfect and droops somewhat in the middle, but aside from being a striking turn to the conventional from pretty much the best band ever, it's loads of fun and perfectly suited to soundtrack a carefree summer.


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