I don’t think it’s any coincidence that every time I try to recall a song from Dub Club Edition, something from a completely different band pops into my head. The third album from Paris-based Patrick Bylebyl and Guillaume Metenier is filled with the kind of tasteful, well-produced trip-hop that’s popping up all over these days. And if the term “trip-hop” is a little backdated, the music is, too. Why would these guys want to spend time and money on a sound Massive Attack perfected more than a decade ago?
If you want to know what Dub Club Edition sounds like, take a listen to your copies of Blue Lines and
That’s basically what’s going on here: midtempo, reggae-influenced soul-jazz with a trio of guest vocalists. Crucially, Bylebyl and Metenier are a lot better at atmosphere than they are at melody; the late-night vibe is so strong that it nearly puts you to sleep. Sprinkling everything with hushed electric piano only gets you halfway there. At some point, you have to give the listener some substance to go with the style. “Running Away” does just that. Its spaced-out reggae rhythm and chilly synths give Angelique Willkie (moonlighting from Zap Mama) something to wrap a chorus around. The song succeeds because its one of few on the album that don’t make you conscious of how hard they’re trying. Though Willkie has a pretty enough voice, on too many tracks she wants so much to seduce you that it ends up being a turnoff. “U & Dem” rolls along nicely, complete with Horace Andy soundalike on earnest vocals (in this case it’s Paul St Hilaire). But when one of the best songs on your album is called “Outro”, there’s a lot left wanting. “Fire” is a decent dancehall/jazz combo, but “It Doesn’t Matter” is crap reggae with hokey toasting by Lone Ranger. Imagine (if you dare to), Maxi Priest at his most FM-friendly. Instrumental “Ashes” would be commendable if it didn’t sound just like the title track from Protection. And things take a political turn for the worst on “Wake Up”, on which Willkie sends an “alert to all the planets” that’s meant to sound the alarm on Bush era militarism, but seems more suited to cheesy 1950s sci-fi. By the way, don’t ask me what an “exclusive Dub Club Edition” is, because I have no idea. Nominally, all of the tracks are remixed, but as far as I can tell, this is the only version of the album that’s available. A trio of additional remixes is appended to the album; Noiseshaper spice up “Running Away” with melodica and tablas, while the “Byl Club Mix” makes house music of it. Dub Club Edition is pretty harmless. It’s not that I would necessarily want it out of my head. But it would be nice if it were descript enough to get there in the first place.