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Dub is a Weapon – Vaporized album review

May 9, 2011

Dub is, by its very definition, a studio based musical form, where music is dismantled, reordered and spat out again through a variety of electronic sound mangling technology. So, I was intrigued to hear what Dub is a Weapon’s new album, Vaporized, sounded like. This is allegedly live dub, featuring the usual instrumentation of a live reggae band.

Dub is a Weapon is the brainchild of Dave Hahn, who with some friends from the Brooklyn scene formed Dub is a Weapon and recorded this album. Hahn has been around for a while – he’s played ska with The Slackers and The Stubborn All-Stars and Afrobeat with Antibalas. He also worked as dub engineer with The Easy All-Stars on their Dub Side of the Moon tour.

Overall, Vaporized has some of the rambling feel of a free-festival jam band, albeit a particularly skilled one. Studio engineer Jason ‘Jocko’ Randall has managed to capture the feel of a live band with the sound quality of a studio recording.

The opener, Turbulence, has a nice mid-tempo head-nodding riddim and features some tasty solo guitar that doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s an Ethiopian feel to the brass lines and the groove is complex. The second offering, Turmoil, keeps things in the mid-tempo area, with battling basslines and musicians taking it in turns to solo over the changes, jazz-style. Seven Doors picks up the pace, kicking of with a solid guitar skank and an Eastern-inflected brass line. Three tracks in and there’s still not much to say ‘dub’ – so far this is a well crafted jazz-flavoured reggae album. Track four, Asheville, does start to bring in some delays and dubby sounds, once again over a strong skank backbone. This is more like it. The fifth tune, Forwarding Home, features vocals by Rob Symeon and moves between major and minor melodies, giving it an Eastern feel in places. This is a cracking tune, and the dub effects are allowed some space to do their thing. Persistence follows with an uptempo, almost ska, rhythm. Larry McDonald (who played many times with Bob Marley back in the day) gets plenty of space to show off his percussion skills in this one. Curva Peligrosa returns to a heavy, slower skank, and this allows more room for the dub effects to support the lead guitar. Track eight, Destiny, picks the tempo right back up again, the guitar holding down the skank while the brass riffs and the dub effects are applied to the drums. There’s some noodling but understated guitar soloing before guitar and brass close the tune in unison. The final tune is Insurrection. This is another head-nodder, sounding much like several of the tunes preceding it. Dave Hahn’s Theremin gets a good workout in this final cut and the tune brings the album to a satisfactory conclusion.

Is it dub? No, not really. Is it a great live-sounding (mostly instrumental) reggae album? Yes. It’s well worth tracking down if you like good reggae, played by top quality musicians and well recorded.

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