Textured monotonies: The Dub triad (2019)

Somewhere around July of 2019 I came across a really superlative musicmaking app called Oscilab, a multidimensional wave oscillator tool that is so creatively intuitive and fun to fiddle with that it did the rounds in our family for weeks after I installed it on our iPad. I don’t have a clue when it comes to synthesiserology, but I do love the spacey ends of the sound spectrum, so I was hunting online for something that even a synth-illiterate like myself could get their head around. Oscilab is that, and I highly recommend it as a really fantastic creative playtool. What ensued for me after acquiring it was a rapid learning curve, and a whole crop of recordings that sprouted like mushrooms throughout July – Sept. I used the app to create most of the beats & synthetic sounds as source material, which I then further estranged from itself via other FX in the editing room. The first music I released that made use of the app is Music For Avoiding Consensus Reality, but while I was recording that album I was also recording a small truckload of tunes I (very loosely) categorised as Interpretive Dub, or ‘experiments in textured monotony’. These recordings mostly evolved in parallel over the months of July – Sept, so the resulting three albums (Dub An Dubberer, Dubber An Dubbererer and i!) all share a common range of sounds and are pretty interchangeable, although by i! I was moving into more abstract territory.

Dub An Dubberer (2019)

The first of what became three albums of ‘interpretive dub’ music. These recordings may or not fit everyone’s definition of ‘dub’, so I use the term loosely and with variable intent. Three important elements converged to inspire this music: as mentioned, the Oscilab app, which not only provided infinite weird’n’squelchy sonics, but also a Drum Machine with presets ranging from acoustic kit to 808 synth – my first opportunity to dabble in such sacrilegious devilment. Unsurprisingly, I found it incredibly liberating, in particular because it allowed me to engage differently with the other two convergent elements: I had re-borrowed my friend’s electric bass, and his Pod electric guitar amp simulator (with a fine selection of textures on offer). Bass has always been a favourite instrument, and having a tight rhythm track to lean on meant I could delve deeper into my playing.

Of course, all these tracks are far too long for anyone’s good, but whereupon a musical notion had sucked me into its yawning vortex I could only surrender to the portal’s pull. The longest, Aphroamnesiac, is only 12 minutes long because about 2/3 of it features a very spacey freejazz passage – my stepson, aged 9 at the time, running a plectrum up and down the neck of my guitar while it was plugged in and running through a bunch of fx; he was transported by the sounds as he played, so I’ve left his ‘zone’ intact. Frogtalk, predictably, features recordings of frogs from our dam, and I added some organic percussion over a pretty straight doof beat – it has plenty of squelchy bits but I don’t know that it qualifies as dub. Others, like Flight Of The Hippopotami and Lost In My Own Beard, have at least one foot in Dubness.

Dubber An Dubbererer (2019)

Aside from its heavy bass focus, the qualities of dub I am drawn to are things like atmospherics, sound collage, deep rhythm, and sounds that take your mind into other dimensions (or perhaps confirm the dimensions you already live in, if you’re like me). These are elements I enjoy in other forms of music too, and often explore in my own recordings, I just never focused them through a Dub lens before.

For some, dub is a lifestyle and a culture; as a terminal fringedweller, I enjoy dub for its transportational listening effect, in the privacy of my own head. At its heart, there’s also a spirit of DIY in dub, and of experimentation with whatever resources are at hand, that appeals to me directly.

In dub, my personal listening preferences are for the original Jamaican roots dub scientists and the early 80s experiments of Adrian Sherwood / UK sound system culture a la African Headcharge, which still retain a sense of the organic and the primitive. I also like the crossover dub extrapolations of Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell, especially the latter’s sense of ambient texture and deep space. All these have influenced the spirit of my own experiments to some degree, but in these three albums I think Adrian Sherwood’s early work inspired me the most.

On Dubber An Dubbererer, there are two tracks that definitely don’t conform in a dub sense, but I like their atmospheric undulations. Robert Mitchum was named thusly because a sound sample I created in Oscilab sounded like a voice saying “I’m thinkin, Robert Mitchum”. As is my wont, this prompted me to read up about the iconically laconic actor, and discovered he had been an intriguing individual, with an iconoclastic nature despite his stardom, and (fittingly) a lifelong penchant for the Rasta herb. Somebody Call An Ambience!! was built on a squelchy synth drone and a fuzzy bass, with a vocal sample that sounds like a chorus of “we all fade away”. As I was creating the piece, I kept getting a birdseye view of an accident scene, a body lying on the street of a city, a crowd gathering around, like a film shot spiralling slowly upward, the perspective that of consciousness leaving the body….

i! (2019)

Although most of these compositions were being developed at the same time as the other two albums, these particular tracks are possibly a bit more abstract in general. Dub Phantasy (Pts 1 & 2) was originally a single continuous piece of dubscapery that ambled along to the 30 min mark, so I thought at least slicing it in half might be relatively prudent. Both are a playful homage to Adrian Sherwood’s early African Headcharge recordings.

The tracks on this album, rely less on electronics created in Oscilab, and more on organically-created sounds ie that I’ve played myself on guitar, keyboard and percussion (especially dundun and kpanlogo drums), then messed with in editing.

While Dub Phantasy Pt 1: Deep In Sherwood Forest takes us on an almost sunny amble, Dub Phantasy Pt 2: Psilocybic Incantation soon disintegrates into a meandering, trance-induced wash of ancient voices and psychedelic sense impressions, as the Forest melts. Dub Up, with its brisk forward step and snatches of angular guitar, and the more opiate-paced Cairo Detective, are a bit more bombastic, a bit more clash and clang in their texture.

Eat My Own Gods / Inverted Self is more driven by Oscilab electronics, with more of a nod to funky pop, until it deconstructs itself in the middle to glide on a cool breeze to the finish line.