Dubs as busy and melodic as those of Treasure Isle and Errol Brown.
Angus Taylor 2010
With their outstanding third album One More Reason, rootsjazzical south London horns-men Soothsayers and musical spars the Red Earth Collective gave us authentic-sounding, vintage roots reggae with enough of their jazz, funk and afrobeat influences to avoid stale nostalgia. Now, their follow-up set of dub versions supplies that record’s ideal companion.
Rest assured, the group has far too much exuberance to make the kind of sparse repetitive dub that's incomprehensible to the sober mind. Comprising six remixes from the One More Reason sessions, one from second album Tangled Roots and some unreleased material (all mixed live by UK dub eminence Manasseh), these dubs are as busy and melodic as those of Treasure Isle and Tuff Gong’s Errol Brown, with the power and UK moodiness of reggae-jazzmaster Dennis Bovell.
The repositioning of Red Earth Collective before Soothsayers on the cover is no accident. For while the horns are prominent – check Robin Hopcraft’s militant trumpet and Idris Rahman’s swooping, eddying sax on new track The Brixton Pound – the other players have a lot more room to be heard. This is particularly true of Idris’s sister Zoe, who was quite low in the mix last time but whose electric piano and organ runs now take on a new life amid the spacious grooves.
There's an instrumental to the Johnny Clarke-inspired Music (shorn of its English Capital Letters-style harmonies to reveal its Aggravators-based structure) and a more traditionally one-drop retool of the Clarke collaboration Bad Boys.
Conversely, the flip to another fresh tune, Hard Times, is suffused with guest violinist Sami Bishai's strings (a big no-no in traditional UK roots) encapsulating the philosophy of a band who, unlike many non-Jamaicans, know exactly how to play reggae yet want something more. Meanwhile, West African-tinged efforts such as Benin City Dub and a timely cover of Fela Kuti’s Africa (with spoken word by percussionist Adesose Wallace) pick up the pace as and when required.
Few modern dub albums can sustain interest across an entire disc. Red Earth Dub, the work of a group still on the rise, is a member of that exclusive club.