Reviews

DJ Vadim – Dubcatcher

Vadim - DubcatcherBBE Records

Born in Russia and raised in London, DJ Vadim rose to fame in the mid-90s with his smooth debut ‘Headz Ain’t Ready’ on his own ‘Jazz Fudge’ label. Straight out of the MPC era of hip-hop production, ‘Headz’ had a break-beat/ hip-hop feel which remains as the cornerstone of Vadim’s sound, but his later releases began to feature a fusion of dub, synth, and ethnic influences. His album, ‘USSR: Life From The Other Side’, established him in the American and European market, and his work as DJ for the hip-hop group ‘One Self’ continued to expose him to a wider audience. (more…)

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Hi Smile Hifi 7″s – feat. S’Kaya & Speng Bond

Hi Smile HifiThe 7″ debut x2 from Top Smile Records, run by High Smile Hifi, is all about pairing strictly-digital riddims with engaging vocal turns. The clean production is consistent with prior tracks and dubplates from the Swiss trio, whose past collaborations include tunes with Daddy Freddy, General Levy, Ranking Joe, and – for their first (digital-only) release “Another Drive-By Shooting” – Sammy Gold. (more…)

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Cocoa Tea – Crab Dem

Crab Dem12″ Maxi Single
Early Days Records
 
Lovers of early digital roots will be well chuffed with the third installment by Early Days Records. This Parisian label run by Mistah P saw its premiere releases last year, with a pair of popular hits packed on a red 12″ by veteran Michael Palmer. This was quickly followed by the second 12″, with lyrical maestro, Trevor Junior’s brilliant ‘Music is Magic’. (more…)

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Mungo’s Hi-Fi – Serious Time

Serious TimeThe third compilation LP from this well-known Glaswegian outfit has landed in-stores, and quickly begun to run on sounds all over the UK. And there are plenty of reasons why.
 
The album opens in true YT style, with a worldly appraisal letting us know we are living in a ‘Serious Time’, over the top of a fresh Mungo’s relick of a classic Studio One riddim. Similarly, Warrior Queen delivers a stellar message on another Studio One reworking, this time Coxsone Dodd’s ‘Run Run’ riddim. Normally found chatting over much darker, bass-heavy tracks, Warrior Queen’s ‘Can’t Stand It’ is one of a handful of standout tunes on this packed LP. It is sure to mash up dancefloors, as I’ve seen it do twice already. (more…)

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Beam Up – Divers / Kick Off 7″

Beam Up - DiversBeam Up, the German organization whose self-described mission is ‘Dubbing The World,’ has certainly done that on their latest limited-edition 7″ release, “Divers” b/w “Kick Off.” The label’s second release on wax takes inspiration from two classic riddims (Massaneh’s “Permissions” and the Roots Radics’ “Dematerialize”), rebuilding them for the modern era. (more…)

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Dub Terminator & Ras Stone – Fyah Level

Fyah Level‘Fyah Level’ fully showcases the combined might of Dub Terminator and Ras Stone, on a journey into New Zealand’s bass and dub scene that has taken several years to come to full fruition.

Featuring Bandulu Dub, opener ‘Babylon Your Days Are Numbered’ mixes a skanking synth with tight bass, while the vocals clearly condemn society’s ills. It is quickly evident: Ras Stone sings best with a purpose, while Dub Terminator shines when the low-end leads and a slight haze creeps in amidst the polished dub effects. (more…)

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Fire I Blaze (Judgement Fi Babylon) Riddim

Fire I  BlazeReality Chant have scored again! Following the success of their recent riddim ‘You’ve Been Bad’, this local production crew are back with another hot roots riddim to warm the winter months.
 
‘Fire I Blaze’ was originally produced by Gabriel ‘Messenjah’ Calcott and Paul ‘Nava’ Bimler for Christchurch reggae sound system, Dubwize. This smooth club-friendly riddim was then re-polished, and in 2012, two 7” vinyl cuts (featuring Deadly Hunta, Louie Culture, Hi Kee and version) came out through Reality Chant and Tru Sound Records. It has now been given a fresh, digital release, and features a full set of artists. (more…)

United Nations of Dub Weekender, Prestatyn, Wales, 28 – 30 March

Blackboard Jungle Rack

Blackboard Jungle Rack

The much anticipated and well-attended United Nations of Dub took place from 28 – 30 March. This 3-day indoor sound system festival that is only in its second edition is already a juggernaut of an event.
 
Set in a fairly quaint northern Welsh town called Prestatyn, in a Pontins self-catering holiday resort, the location is not really like reggae festival spots I am used to! However with its 3 indoor sound system arenas, heated swimming pool, film screenings, and pub all in one close area, it gives a unique community feel to it and served the purpose perfectly.
 
The main arena which features different sound systems each night is a large hi-roofed room with a small grandstand. This provides an excellent viewpoint for the big dancefloor below which is enclosed by huge custom built rigs. You then have the Mungo’s arena where several different sounds play daily on their 3-stack setup. Upstairs you can find a selectah’s arena powered by BTSS and Wonkey Hi-Fi. And finally for a bit of aqua fun, there is a heated indoor swimming pool with many DJ’s  and sounds passing through.

Iration Steppas Sound System

Iration Steppas Sound System

Entertainment-wise, U.N.O.D can never, never short change you. From the time I arrived on Friday afternoon, there was a buzz in the nippy spring air. The Selectah’s Arena kicked off first whilst still daylight. Downstairs, Jah Shaka and his crew were setting up his sound in the main sound system arena under the watchful eye of outernational sound system owners.
 

Alpha Steppa kicked off proceedings in the Mungo’s Arena in a hugely energetic fashion. With his family members, Alpha and Omega, dancing around the stage with him, several mic-men also passed through his set. Martin Campbell followed next in a rootsman style, then Addis Pablo and Alpha and Omega. Dubkasm and Solo Banton ran the last slot of the night into the wee small hours.
 

Blackboard Jungle Sound System

Blackboard Jungle Sound System

Jah Shaka’s 7-hour set on his sound proved to be a crowd favourite. It was long and expectantly rammed so I enjoyed being able to slip in and out of the session to check other sounds out. Jah Shaka is an old school legend, a slow, methodical selectah. My question after night one was who is going to continue this potentially dying tradition and way of running a dance. However after seeing Ashanti Selah and Addis Pablo later on the festival, that question was taken away.
 

Steve Vibronics interviews Mungos Hi-Fi

Steve Vibronics interviews Mungos Hi-Fi

Waking on day 2 to beautiful, peaceful Welsh weather, we took a walk on the nearby  beach, followed by two Q&A sessions hosted by DJ Stryda and Steve Vibronics in the on-site pub. The first was a highly interesting talk with Mungo’s Hi-Fi, which saw producers Craig and Tom talk about making and playing music in the far northern reaches of the UK, and specifically about Mungo’s production techniques.

Later on Dubkasm’s Stryda talked to Addis Pablo, the son of Augustus Pablo (who Stryda had interviewed years earlier). This was a thoroughly interesting talk about music production, modern Jamaican roots music and religion.

Just after this I saw Ashanti Selah, the son of Aba Shanti, in the Selectah’s Arena, but missed the Polish producer I would have liked to have seen, Violin Bwoy.

OBF Sound System

OBF Sound System

On the Mungo’s Stage I caught a plethora of talented UK producers, one after the other. This started with the organiser of the festival, I-Mitri and his band doing a live set, Adam Prescott who runs Reggae Roast, Nucleus Roots, Jah Revelation Muzik with MC Brother Culture, and Murrayman. I then had a break and later saw Vibronics and Brain Damage with a few MCs, which was great.

Inside, the dub arenas looked quite different from the first night, with 4 sound systems all enclosing the dancefloor. You had Aba Shanti-I, Blackboard Jungle, Iration Steppas, and Jah Tubbys sound system. Needless to say this night was a full, pumping experience. The sounds played in a format which over 8 hours in total saw them play for roughly 45-minutes each. They then moved into a 2 tunes for 2 tunes format.

Day 3 and by now the entire vibe of the place had a family feel to it. Lots of new friends had been made, there were several record sellers, merchandise stalls, lots of groups chatting away for hours seemingly content with the environment that had been created. One of the surprises would of been when two small, solar and battery powered sounds popped up just outside the smokers area, playing tune-for-tune all afternoon in a hugely energetic and entertaining way. This proved very popular.

King Earthquake Sound System

King Earthquake Sound System

Salomon Heritage kicked off proceedings in the final day on the Mungo’s stage, one of my favorite new labels. Roots Arna played lots of forthcoming tunes, and Ras Tweed was there to bless the mic which he does with consummate ease. Kibir La Amlak played a great live set, before El Fata backed by Riddim Tuffa took over, and progressed into 80s digital style.

The night finished off with a 4-hour Mungo’s showcase, featuring mainly Charlie P, but also a handful of other MC’s like Murrayman and Cian Finn. I thought Cian Finn from Ireland was one of the hardest working people at the festival – from the first night he chatted on several sets, with Alpha Steppa, Blackboard Jungle, Mungo’s, Alpha and Omega, and probably more that I didn’t catch.

Four very large sounds turned up in the main arena for the final part of the festival, and it was much bigger than night two. King Earthquake, Maasai Warrior, WSP and OBF all made the dancefloor look like a walled enclosure.

Final hour at the Dub Arena

Final hour at the Dub Arena

The night kicked off around 7pm and ran until 3am. By 9pm it felt like the entire room was one big bass bin, and from outside we thought we could hear the roof getting progressively looser. It was a spectacle in itself, people from all over the world moving in an arena as one. The festival had seemingly achieved what its title promotes.

Talking with one of the organisers, they mentioned that it looked like numbers had grown slightly from last year, and with a very strong representation from South America. He rattled off countries like Chile, Peru, Argentina, America, and mentioned big crews from Mexico and Brazil this year. Some attendees had reached from Asia and Africa, of course there was a huge European representation. I also knew there were four of us from New Zealand.
 
I would recommend this festival for all of the sound system community. The music, people, and atmosphere were lovely, and having already announced its third installment in 2015, there is plenty of time to plan for the trip here next March.

More info:
United Nations of Dub Weekender Facebook

Review, pictures and video by RedRobin

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Top Shotta Band feat. Screechy Dan

Top ShottaTop Shotta Band are a 10-piece instrumental Rockers & Dub group based in Brooklyn, New York. Drawing their sound from vintage Jamaican reggae bands such as The Upsetters, The Aggrovators and The Revolutionaires, the band brings a slick and authentic sounding roots reggae vibe which is heavy on the bass, horns and percussion.

The band is led by trumpeter/producer djMush1 (formerly of the seminal NY bands Slackers & Murphy’s Law and currently of Tunnel One Radio [WNYU 89.1fm NYC], Al Paragus HQ Studios/When Dance Was Nice, and Hungry March Band) who lends his spicy jazz-like horn techniques to most tracks on the LP. All up, the band is comprised of a 4-piece horn section, organ, guitar, percussion, drums, bass and vocals which gives them everything they need to create some high quality reggae music. (more…)

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Tribute to Wayne Smith (5 December 1965 – 17 February 2014)

(image courtesy of Jamaica Observer)

(image courtesy of Jamaica Observer)

Dancehall pioneer Wayne Smith passed away recently at age 48. Smith was admitted to Kingston Public Hospital complaining of stomach pains and despite his health briefly improving, he died shortly after noon on Monday 17 February 2014.

While he sang many great tunes, Smith is best known for his role in producing the infamous ‘Sleng Teng’ riddim, a tune which changed the face of reggae practically overnight. Smith and friend Noel Davey built the riddim using a preset function on a simple Casio MT40 keyboard. With the help of Smith’s producer, King Jammy, the first digital dancehall riddim, the ‘Sleng Teng’ was born. (more…)

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