Twilight Circus: Dub from the Secret Vaults

Chris Toenes

Twilight Circus

Dub from the Secret Vaults

Label: ROIR
US Release Date: 2004-04-20
UK Release Date: Available as import

In the mid-'80s, the cross-pollination of musical styles was at an all-out feverish pace. Indigenous world music was being absorbed in little chunks by open-minded rock bands, the poly-rhythms of disco and acid house were finding their way into other spheres like hip-hop, and the echo-drenched vibe of dub reggae was an influence to experimenting punks and electronic producers. Ryan Moore, who records his dub experiments as Twilight Circus, was smack in the middle of all this in the "me decade," but was busy with his full-time project at hand, playing bass for leftfield rock tweakers The Legendary Pink Dots. Moore was messing around with his little obsession with dub, recording the bass and percussion, sometimes with help from others, fleshing them out in the best way he knew how. But his experience is a great example of how this music native to Jamaica spread over the continents, and how its appeal became so universal. For this Canadian who now lives in the Netherlands, the term "roots" has a deeper meaning than "roots, rock, reggae." It explains how he went from rock pursuits to concentrating on dub reggae music, and involving himself with its pioneers.

Dub from the Secret Vaults is a collection of unreleased tracks covering the years 1985 to 2003, from Moore's first devoted experiments with dub, to his genre-blending work in recent years. Since traditional reggae incorporates the unending pulse of beats and stretched-out bass forays into its vocal song structures, dub reggae, in its simplicity of percussion, could be written off as just a jam, unfinished in its lack of melody or catchy lyrics. Most dub heads argue that would be missing the point, since it is an insular world inside the dub producer, working on singular beats and crafting the flourishes surrounding them in a way that can only be compared to the level of detail used by electronic artists and hip-hop producers today. The inner rhythms within the song, how they careen into and over each other, are the goal of this whole symmetry.

Examples of these fledgling attempts at achieving that heart beat-style groove are found in "Bassie Dub 1" and "Bassie Dub 2", basic in their use of the heavy bass throb as their core, without too many flange or synthesizer add-ons. The root of dub reggae is in place, though, with the beat dominating the whole trance-like feel of the music. On "One Drop" and "The Groove", Moore spreads out, with swirling echo rhythms melding with the bass and beats, resonating like the sound of pennies being dropped in a tin bucket filled with water. Moore has an affinity with other influences of the West, as well, mixing a bluesy vibe into "East of Memphis". On "Electric Africa", the bongo and timpani drum style adds a Kenyan or West African feel, without letting the music become a washed-out hybrid without a heart. "Twilight C meets Tommy Z" incorporates dub into a wholly other-worldly stylistic production, akin to his peer Bill Laswell, while "Lift Off" flirts with interstellar UFO visitation with its soaring synthesizer play.

Moore recently collaborated with DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, on a record called Riddim Clash, where both producers toy with texture, touching on dub rhythm structures, but letting them bleed into their hip-hop offspring and the electronics they impacted as well. With Dub from the Secret Vaults, the Twilight Circus Dub Sound System provides a glimpse of several phases of the use of the dub template. From where Ryan Moore is standing, dub has never looked fresher or more limitless in its possibilities.





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