Saturday, 5 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #164 - Dry & Heavy, "One Punch"

This album is from 1998 and produced by dub supremo Adrian Sherwood. I heard a track by Dry & Heavy on The Difference Engine, which is a very good weekly show on Anglesey's (currently) online only radio station, Mon FM. I'd never realised they existed, although a Japanese dub band makes perfect sense.

I'm struck by the fact that a female vocalist sounds a bit unusual fronting a straight-laced dub band. I don't whether it's actually unusual or whether that just reflects my narrow-eyed view of the world. Also, they are one of those groups whose name describes the style of music they play very neatly. Like Crisp & Dry but far more palatable. And the album title? It's cute to see the dub/kung fu obsession from the opposite angle: of an easterly drift.

"TKO" piles it on especially portentously. Big cymbal crashing build-up intro. Boosshhh! Dry and Heavy are apparently the nicknames of two of the band, Sly & Robbie style. "Lost World" ruminates with diplodocus majesty, chewing up all manner of herb, I've no doubt. "Say No More" is a slinky slice of pop dub with more of the vocals and a playful touch of flute and some Seventies-sounding rinky-dink piano.

Ah, the drift of meaning! I still want to crack the music critically. It's both warm and cold, airy and earthy. I think it's an idea of ghosts, of thoughts interrupted or semi-obliterated that appeals. And the monstrous bass grooves, of course. Is it also even more of a departure than the usual reggae of re-interpreting US R&B trends with an off-beat skank? Rather than Bob Marley being some kind of Marvin Gaye mutation (which is far-fetched, I'll admit; but I like to fetch from far off), dub is the genuine attempt to explore a new area. It's certainly music that explores space, whether by reverberating through it or just dropping stuff out. Damn, I wish I understood The Wire better!

"When I get low, I get high." "Dub the Bong Around" has a robot voice, that then gets the dub echo chamber treatment; is that one of the most dub things I've ever heard? (Even the word dub is so hard to break down. So fucking elemental.) There's martial, rapid drumming on "The Athlete" and some blousy brass work: completely compensating for the slightly weedy male vocal. (Dub just never wants to stop, does it? It's music where the background - bass - is moved to the front and centre. That's another thing I like about it.)

It's a wide and wonderful and tiny world in which we live, eh?

Rating: Dry out of Heavy

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