The title Sun Dub here is a little misleading. Dunkelbunt, the recording alias of Austrian producer/DJ/musician Ulf Lindemann, is a truly eclectic artist. He is one of relatively few electronic and dance-oriented composers to incorporate traditional Balkan music, so he gets a lot of attention for that. But as 2009’s excellent Raindrops and Elephants attests, Lindemann’s palate is truly intercontinental, taking in Western, African, Caribbean, and Latin styles as well. In other words, the guy’s impossible to pigeonhole. This second collection of Lindemann’s influences, likes, and remixing work shows why.
There’s dub reggae on Sun Dub, Vol. 2, but that’s just one of the many styles that mix and mingle. At their cores, the beats on these 19 tracks are related to club culture of some sort. But what goes on top of them ranges from traditional folk music to jazz, from hip-hop to klezmer. If this all sounds like a bit of a mess, well, at times it is. More often, though, Lindemann keeps things more orderly, with intuitive sequencing and care that befits what is essentially a personal mixtape.
The compilation opens with the rainforest sound effects and pan flute of Niftys and Dunkelbunt’s “Florestry In Dub”. These rather suspect middle-of-the-road signifiers soon ease into a steady reggae rhythm, however. This is followed by the ska guitar of Amorf Ördögök on “Dunántúli Sláger”. Lest you get the feeling this is merely an international take on traditional dub, however, a ragged trombone straight out of a smoky Budapest jazz dive crashes the song two-thirds of the way in. It’s a taster for the many flavorings that are to follow. From this point to the penultimate track, Sun Dub, Vol. 2 is less about dub reggae and more about everything else.
One of the most engaging, not to mention endearing, tracks is a remix of a 28-year-old song: “Take Me Back to Piaui” from Brazilian agitator Juca Chaves takes a bossanova guitar and adds a funky rocksteady rhythm. Cue the boastful horn section and chanted vocals, and you have something along the lines of a Fela Kuti missive. The funk continues with the laid-back soul-jazz of Italy’s Stefano Miele. With Sun Dub, Vol. 2, the more unexpected or improbable the sound, the better it seems to work. Take the sassy girl-pop/hip-hop vibe of “En La Búsqueda” from Italy’s Nomhadas, or the bold spy-jazz of the aptly titled “Hipbrass” from Germany’s Frohlocker. Neither has a whole lot to do with dub, but Lindemann has drawn you into his world so effectively that it doesn’t matter.
Lindemann also throws in a couple of his own Dunkelbunt compositions. “Kebab Connection”, featuring the energetic toasting of Kenyan dancehall master Cloud Tissa, is presented in a four-part remix. Different producers take the basic track through hip-hop, soca, and spacey dub, until it winds up in floor-rattling dubstep style. Throughout, the track never loses its ethnic touches, or its appeal. By comparison, a remix of “Cinnamon Girl”, a highlight of Raindrops and Elephants, is a disappointment, simply adding beats and subtracting some vocals from the original.
As Sun Dub, Vol. 2 heads down the stretch, it starts to pick up more drum’n'bass influences. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s nice to see Lindemann give props to what is now an often overlooked genre. Still, the frenetic nature of the tracks seems at odds with the laid-back, mid-tempo vibe you’ve been experiencing. Eventually, the compilation ends up close to where it started, with some hazy, dubby reggae. The ambient effects, spectral drones, and rattling tablas of Adham Shaikh’s “Ohm” provide a suitably soothing, not to mention memorable, send-off.
Somewhat inevitably, Sun Dub, Vol. 2 lacks the cohesion and consistent thrills of Raindrops and Elephants. For any fan of Lindemann’s work, though, and those wishing to hear some truly original, truly “world” music in a contemporary setting, it’s highly recommended.