The aptly-named Bent Backs Records are a Brooklyn, New York-based label, specializing in 12″ vinyl. Now on their fourth release – each of which finds a younger vocalist paired with a proper reggae legend (such as Johnny Osbourne and Devon Clarke) – it’s Waterhouse-style extraordinaire King Kong followed by rising French singer S’Kaya plus a tough dub from Hypa.
King Kong, too often confused with the ghost of Tenor Saw, controls the mic with ease on “Sweet Rub A Dub.” Cut as an extended discomix, lines like ‘reggae music in my brain, running through my vein’ are well-sung indeed. As the vocal fades, the riddim deconstructs, before the bassline and synth melody run nicely in tandem while snippets of King Kong are echoed out.
Throughout, the 80s-influenced riddim thumps and rolls beneath this ode to the rub-a-dub style, which is, to oversimplify, proto-dancehall: when the heaviness of roots started to give way to the possibilities of a more upbeat and optimistic style of dub in the dance. Led by the so-called singjays on the mic who mixed the style of traditional singers with the U-Roy school of toasting [we’ll leave any debate about the 80s digital revival of rub-a-dub for another day].
On “No Worry Mum,” S’Kaya speaks from the heart to his mother about her worries regarding the lifestyle of a reggae singer. He explains that ‘I’m sorry if you no see me safety, me work the night in a roots reggae party, don’t worry mum: the life is so easy;’ all the while his anguished vocal rides the riddim precisely. Then comes the strictly instrumental “Reggae Rock Dub” by Hypa, thick with vibes as the consistently pulsing bass is interwoven with rippling synths, clattering drums, and the plodding weight that is crucial for quality dub.
King Kong and the dub version will likely get more play, but with Mother’s Day upon us it certainly seems appropriate to spin “No Worry Mum” in her honor if the reggae life is keeping you up late as well!
A strong release from Bent Backs here, with the riddim doing the proverbial heavy lifting in a sense, but ultimately it’s the work on the mic from both S’Kaya and King Kong that makes this well-worth acquiring.
And just in case you missed it, make sure to give Bent Backs Sound’s 2015 guest mix for NiceUp a listen.
The Groove Thief
.the future of dub is the present.
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