Dubkasm: Brixton Rec (Bristol Archive Records)
Out 8th Sept
Launch Party: The Attic,
Stokes Croft, Bristol,
The long awaited follow up to Dubkasm’s debut album, Transform I, is released today & quite easily lives up to all the expectation. Louder Than War were at the launch party on Friday & the following post feeds back not only from that but also gives you the low down on the album itself, easily one of the best releases of the year so far.
I’ve lost count of how many bristol bands & artists I’ve covered in various forms here on Louder Than War over the years, but the truth is that if I were pushed to do a top 10 of my favourites then the dub / digidub / roots reggae artistes Dubkasm would, probably 90% of the time, claim the top spot. The amount of times I’ve come back to the bands phenemenol 2009 debut album, Transform I, (plus it’s spin off’s Transform I Remixed & Transform I In Dub) would, if added up, number more than the amount of times I’ve listened to every other album by every other Bristol artist in my record / itunes collections. It was a remarkable piece of work, essentially a roots reggae & dub album but with Afro-Brazilian undercurrents of traditional Brazilian sounds such as Samba. Fans of Mala’s Cuba album should deffo check out to see how brilliant these crossover albums can be. Rightfully it was not only lauded left, right & centre in the UK’s dub / reggae cirlces but it also served to gain the two guys behind Dubkasm, (Digistep & Dj Stryda) a reputation worldwide as being masters of their art. The fact that you probably, haven’t heard of them speaks volumes for the low regard most of the UK’s music press hold reggae & dub in & the gross under representation it gains there. Lets face it, unless it’s a reissue from King Tubby or Trojan you probabaly aint gonna see a review of it in the UK’s music press. Hec, look at the lengths Little Roy had to turn to to get some signal for his last release – he had to make it a Nirvana covers album!
Continuing the Dubkasm history lesson, they’d actually been beavering away making music together for a long time before the release of Transform I. They actually began making music together as long ago as 1994 & in 2003 they set up their own label, Sufferah’s Choice (also the name of DJ Stryda’s radio show which those with good memeories will recall I mentioned here once before) on which a lot of hard hitting reggae has been released. A lot of the music that Dubkasm made between ’94 & ’03 never got released properly though, the only way to hear them would have been to have gone along to dances & hear them played live off the original dub plates as they were the preserve of leading UK sound systems such as Aba Shanti and Jah Shaka.
Cue Brixton Rec, a release featuring some of the best of those early Dubkasm recordings. Naturally they decided to partner up with old friends for the album, friends such as Bristol Archive Records (some of whose releases we’ve already written about here) on whose label the album’s being released and Aba Shanti who did the final mixing of the record down at his Falasha Studios.
Right, enough with the factual stuff. Last Friday saw the official release party for the eagerly anticipated album down at The Attic off Stokes Croft in Bristol. And what a party it was! Hot & sweaty, just like one imagines those original parties would have been. The stuff of legends. Well, almost. The music on the night was played on the Roots Radical Sound System and featured not only Dubkasm themselves on the decks but also the man hiself, Aba Shanti.
I arrived just as Dubkasm had just stepped up to take their turn on the decks. The music policy of the night was important – strictly 90’s Vinyl and Acetate only. As it said on the Facebook event page “CD – BANNED, LAPTOP – DISQUALIFIED”. Jah, give praise. Obviously the reason for it being strictly 90’s was because the 90’s were when the Dubkasm dublates were first being spun. And the reason for it being strictly vinyl & acetate? Well that’s pretty obvious yeah?
Curiously this was the second weekend running I’d been to a “history lesson” set by leading lights of their niche / genre, as the week previous to this one the city’s original pioneer of dubstep, Subloaded, had been holding their 8th birthday party, for which they’d scored one of the original kings of the genre, Hatcha, to come to to Bristol to lively up the place, dj’ing b2b with another of dubstep’s original warriors, Pinch. Those original Dubstep nights by Subloaded invariably acknowleged the genre’s roots by including some nod to dub itself & such was the case last weekend with a room striclty devoted to dub / reggae, manned for a couple of hours by Dubkasm themselves. They put on a splendid show then & Friday’s launch party was just like they were carrying on what they’d started there – they hit the floor running as it were.
By the time Dubkasm started their set on Friday the room was full of dancing people and they put on a masterful example of their art. Everything was perfect, from the toasting between tracks celebrating the music, to the use of effects & to Digisteps impressive accompaniment on some of the tracks with his brilliant & really well received Saxophone playing. The track selection was perfect for such a momentous occasional, concentrating on the deeper, heavier side of reggae & dub. During the Subloaded event the previous week Stryda had commented along the lines of “I know what’s going on upstairs is the stuff that you’re all here for & the stuff that you’ve come to dance hard too, but don’t think that because this is named the dub cave that you can come here to chill out”. Same was true on Friday, there was no taking it easy to this music. It was totally bouncing on your toes / jogging on the spot reggae rather than your low down slow skanking stuff. Music to get hot & sweaty too. Whenever I went from the front of the room to the back I had to fight my way through a seething mass of heavily dancing people. Indeed, even at the bar there was no stoping people dancing.
Unity is definitely one of the watch words when wittnessing a Dubkasm set. Seeing DJ Stryda & Digistep so in each others pockets was magical, dancing together completely in time with each other, metronomically each one swaying to the same side at the same time. If you didn’t know better you’d say it was choreographed! And talking of harmony & supporting one another, if you’re the sort of person who needs a celebrity endorsement before you jump on something new then give thanks for the fact the Massive Attack were in the house tonight lending their support in the from of Daddy G hiself. He stayed for the whole of Dubkasm’s set, stood near the front of the stage dancing with everyone else. One Bristol legend supporting another.
Considering how many other events were going on in the city this night (not least a Hessle Audio takeover at Bristol In:Motion) it was a mighty impressive turn out. And I doubt if there were a more vibesing joint in town. The whole room was dripping with sweat by the end of it. The surge of excitement when they dropped a track I knew off the album was unreal.
And so to the album itself, how does it stand up in it’s own right? It’s kind of easy to excite people with a track off your album when it’s being played to a roomful of pumped kids high on dancing euphoria & alcohol. But how about when one’s sat at home listening in an empty room? Well, the answer is that it stands up very well under these circumstances too. Brilliantly well in fact. Heavyweight bassline after heavyweight bassline. And structured, thoughtful, well placed use of effects such as echo & blips complimenting each track & never distracting. The use of echo is especially noticeable. And of course there’s some great harmonica in places too. It may feel natural to dance to this stuff when surrounded by 200 other people also dancing to it but, let me tell you, it also feels totally natural to also dance your face off to this when you’re doing your washing up. Or cycling into town. (Though in this latter situation dancing probably isn’t recommended).
The thing that becomes apparent also when listening to the record is the scope & breadth of variety in each track. This comes down in large part to the fact that when played in a club setting one’s focussing on the heavy, rumbling bassline, but when played on your decks at home one notices other details, like for instance that four of the eight tracks have vocals, each one with a different vocalist, including Dubkasm regular Ras Addis, âJah Bible.âÂ Plus you also notice that these tracks all have, in true reggae tradition, a dub version immediately afterwards. (If you get the download / CD version you also get 3 bonus tracks).
So a brilliant album & a worthy follow up to Transform I. Rumour has it that Digistep & Stryda are working on another album to be released later in the year. On the light of this album one can only hope so.
Side A: 1.The Soul (ft. Tena Stelin) 2.Soul in Dub 3.The Order (ft. Lidj Xylon) 4.Dub Order
Side B: 5.Spiritual Warrior Time (ft. Tena Stelin) 6.SIM Dub 7.Jah Bible (ft Ras Addis) 8.Biblical Dub.