Dub Tractor: Sorry

On his sixth album, Denmark's Anders Remmer once again creates a gauzy world out of treated guitars and subtle electronics. Has he made progress?

Dub Tractor


Label: City Centre Offices
US Release Date: 2009-12-08
UK Release Date: 2009-11-16

Who says electronic acts can't grow and prosper into middle age? Copenhagen's Anders Remmer has been recording as Dub Tractor for over 15 years. Sorry, his sixth full-length album, is arguably a career high. While he's always blurred the lines between acoustic, electric, and electronic instrumentation, Sorry is infused with a new warmth. It certainly sounds more organic than 2006's Hideout, which at times literally faded far, far into the background. Maybe it's the focus on Remmer's vocals and lyrics. Maybe it's the more overt acknowledgement of the influence of "shoegazer" music from the 1990s. Maybe it's the songwriting. Whatever the reason, Sorry is much more difficult to ignore, and much more enticing to listen to. Repeatedly.

Remmer's basic method hasn't really changed. Slow-moving, reverb-drenched swells of sound gradually saturate the listening space like melting ice floes. Acoustic and electric guitars and electric bass are manipulated to sound like synthesizers. Here are the shoegazer references, a new selling point based on that little genre's recent resurgence. But then Remmer adds more synthesizers, and uses dub effects and scratchy, punchy, glitchy rhythms. In a sense, this is the union with electronica that shoegaze was heading toward before it just kind of faded out.

Throughout, the relationship between the instrumentation and the songs it serves is seamless, almost telepathic. Sorry is rooted more in songcraft than Dub Tractor has ever been. The best example comes first. Opener and lead single "And You Are Back" is a nostalgic, melancholic overflow of sadness and beauty, breathtaking in its poignancy. And that's before you realize the song is about death. Indeed, the album centers on themes of failed relationships, romantic or otherwise, and the desire to understand them. On the title track, Remmer can get out only two words, "Sorry girl…", before trailing off and letting the music say the rest. And the stuttering electronic rhythm, heavily treated acoustic guitars, and ripples of reverb have a story to tell. Elsewhere, song titles like "It All Went Wrong", "That Won't Heal by Itself", and "I Don't Get It Anymore" give you an idea of Remmer's state of mind. On "Fall in Love Like This", he describes attaining love in a series of second-person instructions, and the best you can hope for is to "seem much less bewildered".

While this may all sound sad, it's never despondent. That's due in part to the shelter of the music. "It All Went Wrong", for example, has a full-on dub rhythm, with a rumbling bassline that's much too menacing to be blue. And "That Won't Heal by Itself", with its gently strummed guitar and sympathetic glockenspiel notes complementing Remmer's quiet, familiar voice, is so pretty as to be comforting. In the end, Remmer at least takes solace in the fact that "This is order…this is something we don't choose". It's not exactly liberation, but it's at least a sign that acceptance may be forthcoming. Herein lies Sorry's emotional pull. When you're beat down, you don't always want to be lifted back up high. This music lets you wallow without becoming pathetic.

Yet, Sorry may wallow a bit too much for some. Yes, Remmer focuses more on traditional "songs", but all of these songs are constructed similarly. What it lacks in dynamics, the album makes up for in texture, but that texture can be slow to reveal itself. Until that happens, it does all sound a bit the same. Also, Remmer still tends to sing in mantra-like phrases, which adds to the impression you're listening to variations on a theme. When you're sunken into the midst of Sorry, though, none of that matters. And you can always just hit "And You Are Back" one more time. Yes, middle age can be prosperous for one-man bedroom bands. No, Remmer hasn't changed his ways. But he certainly has improved them.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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

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