September 22, 2008
Dub in a Voodoo Style
After dub had fully asserted its independence from father genre roots/reggae, many different styles were allowed to develop. Although it may not have been a consciously created sub-genre, the voodoo dub style is inextricably linked to reggae’s connection with African cultures. Its pioneers were also dub’s own innovators, such as legendary producers Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby and Augustus Pablo.
Utilising the established techniques of dub and infusing them with haunting, psychedelic effects creates a whole new angle on the genre. Regular features include Afro-centric melodies and an accentuation of Nyahbinghi percussion.
Beginning with a cut from one of the Fathers of dub, ‘Bird in Hand’ is perhaps one of the best examples of the voodoo dub style. First released on the second of the classic ‘Super Ape’ dub sets from Perry, the haunting vocal of the track is its fascinating appeal.
Lee Perry was again the driving force behind this entrancing piece of dub, utilising phasers and filter sweeps to create a dream-like sound scape on which the vocal harmonies of roots group Zap Pow could float.
Twisting the famous Augustus Pablo track ‘Java’ in his own unique spiritual style, Studio One mainstay Cedric Im Brooks employs his own voodoo ambiance with distant vocal harmonies and insistent percussion.
Taken from a collaboration album by two of dub’s heavyweights, ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ takes a Jacob Miller track and replaces its original sentiments with Pablo’s eerie melodica and a stripped down working of the vocal chant. Tubby’s innovations with the mixing-desk-as-instrument technique are in full effect throughout.
A humorous dub in which the listener is introduced to the instruments as they fall in and out by a vocalist of whose name I am unsure, possibly a reworking of the Lloyd Charmers track of the same name. The keyboard melodies are angular and varied over the thick rhythm section.
We end with another Lee Perry classic from the first of The Upsetters ‘Super Ape’ albums. It would be near to impossible to comment on Scratch’s perfect balance of eccentricity and genius without sounding cliched and repetitive of previous acclamation, but it is tracks such as Zion’s Blood that remind us why such praise was given in the first place.