Is there a market for sci-fi dub? If Filewile get their way, sure.
Matthew Horton 2009
Swiss duo Filewile work to a strict DIY aesthetic, handling their own production and distribution, setting up their own studio in Berne and even arranging their own gigs and merchandise. It’s a throwback to their 2003 birth as a laptop-toting mobile soundsystem, playing shows on the street and releasing free downloads each month. They might have moved onto full-length releases now – this follows 2007 debut album Nassau Massage – but it’s still a cottage industry run through their Mouthwatering Records imprint. And it shows.
There’s a sense of dislocation to Blueskywell. To all intents, this is a dub album, but fully synthesised and unaffected by prevailing trends. Partners in skank, Dustbowl (aka Andreas Ryser) and Dejot (Daniel Jakob) have made a record with a commercial sheen – surprisingly reminiscent of Beats International’s excursions on versions in the early 90s – and yet it’s like little out there at the moment.
Whether that means there’s a gap in the market for sci-fi dub remains to be seen, but there’s some absorbing stuff here. The ominous One Space Town sounds like a majestic off-cut from Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack, revelling in skyscraping synths and doomy beats; King of the World is similarly filmic, aping those accordion chirrups from 12 Monkeys, while regular vocalist Joy Frempong dusts off her best Siouxsie Sioux. This is the kind of eclecticism we’re faced with.
Other moderate triumphs include the lively Kick the Spacedrum, with its King Tubby horns and boisterous skank, and the funky glitch of Bug, which – like one or two other tracks here – brings to mind the quirky late-90s groove-sketches by Beastie Boys organist Money Mark.
All too often though, the bouncy dub patterns just aren’t charismatic enough to stand out; the jazzy Robibot never really gets going, Balaton Soupdrink’s folk-hop meanders about, and The Cave doesn’t capitalise on an eerie atmosphere. During these longueurs, Blueskywell veers perilously close to background music.
Still, every party has its peaks and troughs, and Filewile generally seem committed to making it fun. Perhaps next time they’ll get some outside help – an editor, say, to prune the 14 tracks – and a tighter, brighter record can emerge.