J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science: Soul Vibrations

J-Boogie's latest jumps from one genre to the next for this mellow listen that, for better or for worse, could easily lull you to sleep.

J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science

Soul Vibrations

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2008-09-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

For J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science's sophomore effort, Soul Vibrations, the group has created another collection of jazz/soul/funk/hip-hop-infused tracks that will inspire your inner ass-shaker. But the album’s weaknesses float to the surface as the 15 songs progress. They offer little in terms of variety and/or innovation, which leads to a skip-filled listen. And even though J-Boogie and his group of guests are certainly talented, they play it safe on here. If you are looking for something to instantly come out and grab you, move along. But should you be in the market for a smooth trip to the West Coast where the attitude of chillin’ and layin’ low rules, Soul Vibrations could very well be what you need.

Producer J-Boogie, who has produced remixes for the likes of DJ Vadim and Mark Farina, has made a name for himself over the years as a go-to-guy for the type of tunes heard throughout this album. He specializes in meshing that old school boom-bap with hints of electronica and soul. And they either hit just as J-Boogie intended or they fall flat on their collective musical face. Fortunately for the producer, his better tracks overpower the weaker ones, but many of those tracks also don’t resonate as well as they should. So on one hand, you have a surefire hit like "Alive", which features spiritual, positive rapping from the Crown City Rockers. The catchy beat combined with the emcees’ fun lyricism could have been enough, but crooner Jrod Indigo adds a necessary R&B tinge. "1.4.U.", a hip-hop love song that you just do not hear much of anymore, is another instant standout. Most of the blame for that is placed on the shoulders of Ohmega Watts, who you should check out if you don’t know the name. Although it might be a stretch, he sounds almost as convincing as Common did on "The Light". And the beautiful vocals from Ragen Fykes are the perfect contrast to Watts’ rhymes.

Although those three hip-hop anthems are fantastic, they are the only two that don’t fade into the background. Sure, "Inferno" could get "your ass up on the floor" as the rappers from Lunar Heights proclaim, but it’s also too corny for its own good. And "For Your Love" nearly hits as hard as "1.4.U.", but Zumbi, of Zion I, isn’t nearly as smooth as Watts, though it’s still a damn fine track. But the others -- "Revolution", "Que Pasa?", and "Same Ol’ Thang" -- are not strong enough to hold your attention. That’s a shame, too, because they all have potential, particularly J-Boogie’s production on "Same Ol’ Thang", which is full of airy synths and classic hip-hop drums.

The same unbalanced problems plague the more soul- and R&B-heavy tracks as well. Also, few of these cuts stand up on their own. "Dirty", which is wrought with blues and jazz influences, is painfully average, partially due to a dull appearance by singer Tim’m West. "Together", a track primed for play at a summer barbecue, and "Alegria", a relaxing trip to paradise, might make up for "Dirty", but they are also less than stellar. The only true heavyweight of this vocals-focused bunch is "Leave It All Behind". While it’s true that Aima the Dreamer, of the Mamaz, does spit on this one, the chorus is what makes the track soulful and, above all, a pleasant listen. It also helps that J-Boogie’s beat is hypnotizing and the accompanying instrumentation is gorgeous. As strong as her showing is on "Leave It All Behind", however, Aima nearly spoils it on the shout-out-laden "Out to the Bay". A track like this might be a humble showing of appreciation, but, like others of its kind, it is mostly a snoozefest. And it doesn't help that "Chopsticks", the only instrumental on here, could have easily ended the album.

It’s difficult to place a solid number score for an album of this nature. At times, you can get wrapped up in J-Boogie’s mellow beats. But then there are times you spin Soul Vibrations and something just feels off. And even the more killer tracks on here can grow tiring unless you are in the mood for them. Unfortunately, that mood will most likely not strike you enough to make this an instant purchase.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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

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