May 7, 2013

Max Bell has been known to say, “eh mon,” in mixed company.

Stones Throw perennially cracks the top ten (and some years top one) lists for ‘The Best Independent Record Label.’ The same can be said for Dub Club—the Wednesday night Dub/Reggae/Dancehall show that blasts blunted and bone-soothing bass out of Los Angeles’s Echoplex—which should be in the top three on the list of the ‘Best Things to Do on a Wednesday in LA’ (I don’t see it here, but maybe that’s a good thing). Whether or not  you believe in Jah, he or some other deity has seen fit to align both Dub Club and Stones Throw.

Dub Club, in its Stones Throw incarnation, is the collaboration of Dub Club resident DJ/producer Tom Chasteen and Reggae veteran Tippa Lee, who had hits back in the ’80s like “No Trouble We.” Prior to their current pairing under the helm of Fedora connoisseur and super human-DJ Peanut Butter Wolf, the duo came together for “Mi Nah Call No Police”, which appears on the soundtrack to Return of the Rub A Dub Style, a documentary on Dub Club (the venue) and its history.

Their most recent track is the single “Beware Dub,” which comes off of their first Stones Throw project Signs & Wonders in Dub, released at the end of last month It’s four minutes of unadulterated Dub—heavy bass, plenty of reverb and echo, fading vocals, and pockets deep enough for innumerable spliffs and other smoking paraphernalia. It’s less a new take on an old form than it is a revival, a reverent and near-perfect rendering of the sound, aesthetic, feeling that rattles the stalls in the Echoplex bathroom one night a week.

I believe I’m paraphrasing something Jeff might’ve said on Shots Fired, when I say that some forms of music just work—they do not need updating. They are so grounded in a time and place and era, so associated with the emotional and the visceral that they need only to be redone well, not reinvented. This is true for Dub and Reggae (unless you’re Snoop Lion). That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to hear whatever ‘the new Dub,’ or whatever people will call it (hopefully not something like Moombahton), but just that what Chasteen and Tippa up to is more than fine with me.

More often than not, what I often find great about projects like these is that they inspire the listeners who’ve never really gotten into music like Dub and Reggae to dig, to look back at artists like Count MachukiKing Stitt, and Sister Nancy in the same way that artists like Mayer Hawthorne and Dam-Funk, both in their music and mixes, ask listeners to look back on records from people like Holland-Dozier-Holland (Hawthorne) and Slave and Kleeer (Dam).

“Beware Dub” is just one of ten on the record, which is the first of two dub projects to be released as prequels to Dub Club’s first full-length LP, Foundation Come Again. If the album sounds like anything I’ve heard off of the Dub project, then it’s something to be on the lookout for this summer.

P.S. Someone needs to sacrifice the Wednesday night time-slot so I don’t have to choose between the Airliner (Low End Theory) and the Echoplex (Dub Club) every week. I feel like it needs to be said.

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