On Sly & Robbie’s third dub album this year they have teamed up with veteran mixing engineer Paul “Groucho” Smykle, who mixed a few classics back in the 80s, including Ini Kamoze’s ground-breaking debut and Black Uhuru’s forward-thinking The Dub Factor.
Sly & Robbie are two of the main proponents of dub and have played on countless of dub albums and also produced and mixed more than a few. And Dubrising throws you right back when to a time when the duo started to make a name for themselves – the early 80s.
Dubrising is heavy as lead, yet melodic and refined. Paul Smykle uses quite a lot of vocals in the mix, so the original eight tracks from the likes of Bunny Rugs, Horace Andy and Chezidek can be recognized.
This album is not as sparse as two of Sly & Robbie’s more recent dub efforts – Blackwood Dub and Underwater Dub. It’s actually far from sparse. There are loads of instruments to play with for a mixing engineer. Apart from the usual bass, drums, guitar and keys, they have thrown in harmonica, strings and flute. Sounds like a real challenge for a mixing engineer.
The mixing is playful and Paul Smykle has created something of a meticulously coordinated chaos. Vocals coming in from the right, synths from the left, percussion from below and flute from above. It’s a joy to listen to and you are keen to know what will happen next.
Among the many highlights are the militant To the Rescue with its galloping drums, wobbling bass and odd sound effects and Freedom Ring with its haunting synths, hypnotic drums and ground-shaking bass.
Sly & Robbie have been in the music business for about 40 years, but they still manage to stay innovative and original.
World-renowned riddim duo Sly & Robbie have been involved in countless of dub albums – as studio musicians, producers and mixing engineers. For a number of years they kept a low profile, but it in 2012 the returned to the spotlight with Blackwood Dub, recorded together with producer Alberto Blackwood.
Now comes the next chapter in this musical relationship. Underwater Dub collects ten instrumental dub cuts recorded in an analogue style at the legendary Harry J studio in Jamaica with musical heavyweights such as Mikey Chung, Radcliffe Bryan, Daryl Thompson, Robbie Lyn and Sticky Thompson.
Focus is on drums and bass. And these two essentials are drenched with unusual sound effects and some studio wizardry with lots of echo and reverb. It’s slow and monotonous, and non-dub heads might find this release strange, or odd even, but for me it’s a real treat. Turn up the bass – the riddims twins are in full effect.
Jamaican duo Sly & Robbie is most likely the world’s best know riddim section and have probably played on more records and sessions than most other notable outfits like Mafia & Fluxy or the Barrett brothers.
And they have a stunning catalogue that spans over four decades, including working with world renowned artists such as Grace Jones, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger as well as most well-known reggae artists from the 70’s up until today.
Their first album under their own name in years is the recently released dub album called Blackwood Dub, recorded in Jamaica at the Harry J studio with notable veteran musicians Sticky Thompson and Mikey Chung.
The ten tracks are both refurbished vintage riddims as well as more contemporary ones. And all bear the Sly & Robbie trademark – bouncy, driving bass lines along with pounding, tight drumming complemented with exercises in studio wizardry.
The sound is rich, full and heavy throughout. Since there are no traces of vocals to be found it can be a bit dry though.
But, Blackwood Dub is nevertheless a fascinating cavernous and vibrating journey that will set your mind free.