I remember buying this random disc in Palo Alto, California while at summer camp in high school. I had probably read a review about it in an issue of URB Magazine, which was one of my primary 90s go-to sources for discovering fresh underground music.
In the CD age, everything was a $14.99 crapshoot. You really never knew what type of sound you were going to hear, let alone if the music was worth the price tag. But I got lucky with Smith & MightyBass is Maternal, 15-tracks that introduced me to the sound of dub while also converging elements of techno, hip-hop, and jungle music. Their music planted the seeds for the Bristol trip-hop explosion from Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky.
I don’t think you’ll find the album on any of the streaming services (here’s the Amazon link for the CD) but if you’re going to start digging, start with the crispy breakbeats on the track ‘Evolve.’
Liam Bailey is a soul and reggae artist from Nottingham, England. He’s collaborated with drum n bass producers Chase and Status and Shy FX, as well as Amy Winehouse and more recently, Gorillaz.
The reggae-infused track ‘When Will They Learn’ originally released on vinyl in 2011 but got a rerelease in 2013 on Magic Records. An untrained vocalist, Bailey says his raw singing is reminiscent of the sounds of vinyl, something the greatest rock DJ John Peel also echoed.
“I don’t want to compare myself to magic, but imperfections are what make us human.”
Jan Jelinek is a Berlin-based electronic producer. He’s known for his abstract style of moiré in which he reduces beat patterns to a third dimension.
The minimalist track ‘Tendency’ appears on the album Loop – Finding – Jazz – Records, originally released in 2001. So it predates the dub-techno framework later adopted by Burial and the likes of Forest Swords.
Sherwood & Pinch are London-based dub producers Adrian Sherwood and Rob Ellis aka Pinch. This is the second collaboration from the duo that originally met at the Fabric London night club. “Having spent around five years working together, our work flow has developed and improved considerably, and we both feel that the music we’re making now is something neither of us could or would do alone,” says Ellis.
‘Itchy Face’ is one of the standout arrangements on the latest record Man Vs. Sofa, trickling with their trademark bassline punches before stepping into soft touches of the piano. Meanwhile, ‘Roll Call’ and ‘Gun Law’ ring with murderous dread overtones.
“I’m really proud of Man Vs. Sofa – Pinch and I have developed a proper great sound together and this is a real step forward,” affirms Sherwood. A grand step forward from two heavyweight producers, indeed.
Andy Mac is a Bristol-based electronic music producer. While his past solo projects focused on deep house and broken beat, his most recent release Diving Bird sees him pay respects to Bristol’s dub heritage.
‘Horse Fly Dub’ is one of the standout tracks, conjuring the hazy rhythms of island life at night.
“And with Horse Fly there was a particular rhythm in the drums in some reggae that has always fascinated me because it doesn’t seem to run half time or it runs double time even and I think I was thinking about that a lot. You listen to some of these tracks and it almost sounds like country music, which I think was quite big in Jamaica. Poor and Clean by Gregory Isaacs would be an obvious example for me.”
From the fringes of dub music, comes Abu AMA, an electronic producer from West Germany. The ambient textures on the track ‘Kufi Wood Art’ typify the kind of disorientating locked grooves that put you in an experimental place.
While released in August, the music couldn’t be more timely: “dedicated to all the refugees worldwide.”
Always pushing forward. That’s how you could describe Manchester electronic producer Andy Stott‘s music. He gave up making formulaic club tracks to focus on pionneering weirder “knackered house,” combining “sludgy tempos, grainy sounds, dense atmospheres.”
He continues exploring new sounds on his latest album Too Many Voices. Perhaps the most interesting track is ‘Selfish,’ where Stott shapeshifts between grime and a distorted dancehall beat. Pay extra attention to catch the noise in between.
Mark Ernestus is a German rhythm and dub sound producer, known for his work as Basic channel and more recently, The Rhythm and Sound’s ‘See Mi Yah.’ He also opened the reknown Hard Wax record store in Berlin in 1989 to celebrate dub and reggae imports.
On the Yermande EP, Ernestus takes his goal of merging African and European sound further. You might have heard Thom Yorke play the bouncy ‘Yermande (Kick and Bass Mix)’ dub track on Benji B’s Radio 1 a couple weeks ago.