Music

Dubblestandart, Lee "Scratch" Perry and Ari-Up: Return From Planet Dub

The Austrian veterans get together with Scratch and ex-Slit Ari Up for two discs worth of respectable dub mayhem. But can we all agree it's time for Lee Perry to retire?


Dubblestandart, Lee "Scratch" Perry & Ari Up

Return From Planet Dub

Contributors: Dubblestandart, Lee "Scratch Perry", Ari Up, Gudrun, Prince Far I
Label: Collision
US Release Date: 2009-06-16
UK Release Date: 2009-06-26
Amazon
iTunes

There are at least two undisputable truths about Lee "Scratch / Upsetter" Perry. One is that he is among the most groundbreaking and influential Jamaican producers and record-makers of all time. The other is that he's crazy. For at least the past 20 years or so, he's turned into a sort of loveable self-parody, getting away with it because of his past and, well, who can help being crazy?

During this time, Perry has relied on high-profile collaborators to maintain his musical relevance. These have included British producers Adrian Sherwood and Mad Professor, as well as Dieter Meier of Swiss electropop band Yello. Now, Return From Planet Dub, pairs Perry with veteran Austrian dub act Dubblestandart. For good measure, Ari Up, former member of the British punk band the Slits and a longtime dub enthusiast, is along for the ride as well. In true Upsetter style, it all amounts to a mish-mash of new tracks, revisited Perry standards, remixes, and David Lynch. One of those records that was probably much more thrilling to make than it is to listen to, Return From Planet Dub is nonetheless an engaging, moody, more-than-competent dub platter.

In an ironic twist, Perry may be the weakest link here. His stream-of-consciousness, semi-gibberish ramblings have become increasingly tedious and unnecessarily profane. "Blackboard Jungle" is one of the classic dub tracks of all time. Perry's ranting about "Mister Rich and Mistress Bitch", not to mention his order to "respect my piss", hardly add to the rhythm's legacy. Worse is "Fungus Rock", which is about as palatable as its title suggests. Perry's threat to "turn you into ashes and dust / While you're sucking de pus" is about the least disgusting imagery on offer. This sort of bile, uttered in Perry's by now paper-thin rasp, are more reminiscent of an oblivious, senile grandfather than the grandfather of dub. True, Perry does always ensure character and distinction, but it's tough to imagine this is the kind of distinction Dubblestandart was looking for.

And, when he's restrained, Perry does actually add something to a couple tracks. A run through of "I Chase the Devil", originally recorded with Max Romeo, updates the rhythm with modern space-dub effects, while Perry, thankfully, embellishes the lyrics with nothing more than some rhymes about "the music war". "Let 'Em Take It" is this two-disc collection's most successful collaboration. Dubblestandart lay down a truly haunting track, with ethereal keyboards weaving through the purposefully lumbering bassline and off-beat accents. Here, Perry's indifferent recitation of the title phrase adds authenticity and power. You just wish for more of those moments, when Perry is more ghost than goof.

Also, though Perry is clearly the main attraction here, he appears on only about half Return From Planet Dub's tracks. That leaves Ari Up to lend her sassy attitude to some decidedly more aggressive, electronic-flavored material. While they certainly up the energy level, tracks like "Idiots Dub" are at odds with the more traditionally cavernous, easy-rolling Perry tracks.

Oh, yes! And David Lynch. He appears in the form of a sampled interview on "Chrome Optimism", the lead track from the set's second disc. In keeping with tradition, this disc consists mostly of alternate dub versions and remixes. Lynch is always dependable to weird things up a little, and phrases like "the ideas tell you how you wanna be" have a lot more mood-altering impact than most of Perry's ramblings. The other half-dozen dub versions, created by Dubblestandart, basically just add more dub to already dubby material. Not much lost, but not a lot gained, either. Finally, the selection of DJ mixes that closes out the set definitely takes things into more trend-conscious, "dubstep" territory. In other words, there are more rumbling, throbbing, whirling low-frequency synthesizers. Another dub luminary, Prince Far I, even makes a welcome appearance on "Wadada - Means Love".

Return From Planet Dub is less a proper album than a respectable grab-bag of where dub has been and what it's up to now. The liner notes include a pretty comprehensive, reverent history of the dub form. It's more evidence the Austrian combo is interested in carrying on a tradition whose impact on modern music can not be understated. Lee Perry is responsible for a huge amount of that impact. Let's hope he's remembered as the pioneering Upsetter, rather than the muttering caricature.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image