Decibel Festival Showcase Spotlight: dB in duB Part 1: Past, Present and Future of duB
Many beats ago on the island of Jamaica, reggae artists and producers started experimenting with B-sides of tracks, letting loose their more creative sides and removing the vocals, emphasizing the bass and drums, and inventing new sounds with heady reverb and echo effects. Sound design pioneers Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock and Lee “Scratch” Perry were the first in the world to regard the mixer as an instrument, renovating the original songs into rhythm-centric “dubs” whose rich, organic soundscapes gave new attention to negative space, multi-layered depth, and of course, the bass.
Now decades later, dub has profoundly affected the birth of hip hop and electronic music, and what started as a small sonic revolution of smooth island beats now has a widespread influence on production all over the world. “dB in duB Part 1: Past, Present and Future of duB” celebrates not only the creation of the dub genre and its subsequent exposure, but also its evolution through the years into multiple subgenres- from garage, drum and bass, grime, trip hop, and dubby techno to the most recent dub darling, dubstep.
The 2009 Decibel Festival kicks off near the beginning of the story of dub with trailblazer Mad Professor. A grand king of the genre, Mad Professor has championed traditional dub from his London studio for decades. Not only has he worked with reggae legends as well as famous artists outside the dub domain, but he has also been instrumental in transitioning the genre into the digital age and staking the UK’s premier claim on exposing dub to the world. Known for original productions as well as remix work, the prolific Mad Professor has had his hands in over 200 albums and an immense “old school” impact on modern breakbeat culture.
Stomping along next is one of the godfathers of dubstep, Benga, who hails from the UK like the rest of the sound’s procreators. Out of one record store (Big Apple Records), one club night, and one very talented group of friends, dubstep emerged from garage, 2-step, and grime to be propelled into an innovative genre of its own right. Music like Benga was creating at age fifteen is now taking the world by storm, most notably on the West Coast of the US where the thick wobble has grabbed the attention of electronic music fans from Seattle to San Diego.
Deepchord presents: Echospace represents the forefront of the newest hybrid, dub techno. Producing with only vintage analog equipment that gives its “life-force” to the music, the duo uses dense atmospheric elements that add an emotional charge to their loopy, minimal sound. Rounding out the showcase is local champion of the fresh and the eclectic, Kid Hops, whose two radio programs on KEXP have exposed listeners to new music from way-out reggae to funky, dubby drum and bass.
Dub is the sound of a warm welcome, with a roots-oriented vibe and soothing beats combined with synthesized sounds and electronic machinations from tomorrow. It is the perfect juxtaposition of the past and the future, and is best experienced in the present- and in front of a bass bin. The story of dub continues at Decibel Festival, and as we explore its echoes through several subgenres you may find that just as dub has taken up permanent residence in electronic music culture, it has done the same in your head. Dub is here to stay, and to move dance floors with a bassy bounce like only island music can.