Music

Various Artists: Box of Dub 2: Dubstep and Future Dub

Sean Padilla

There's much more to dubstep than just Burial. This compilation is a great entry point into one of electronic music's most interesting subgenres.


Various Artists

Box of Dub 2: Dubstep and Future Dub

Label: Soul Jazz
US Release Date: 2007-11-06
UK Release Date: 2007-11-05
Amazon
iTunes

This compilation couldn't have come at a better time for me, as I've been having a love affair with dub music for the last year. Dub music's palpable low end, flirtation with negative space, and fascination with studio technology can turn even the most mundane source material into a relaxing yet disorienting listen. Since witnessing dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry's hilariously slapdash, yet oddly compelling, performance at last year's South by Southwest festival, I've procured as many of his most renowned albums as I possibly could, given his vast discography and my meager budget. I eventually branched out from Perry's oeuvre to investigate the works of his contemporaries (Augustus Pablo, Keith Hudson) and his artistic descendants (Scientist, Mad Professor). I had no clue, though, where to look for good 21st century dub.

Enter London musician Burial, whose sophomore album Untrue clued me in to the existence of "dubstep", the latest evolution of dub. This subgenre is exactly what its name implies: a fusion of dub's sonic manipulation with the skittish syncopation of British two-step. When the Soul Jazz label released the first installment of its Box of Dub series, a Burial track was given central placement in the track listing, a prescient foreshadowing of the hype that Burial would receive during the second half of 2007. Critics and bloggers worldwide rushed to portray him as the central figure of the dubstep movement. He's conspicuous in his absence from Box of Dub 2, but it's probably for the best, as this installment spotlights equally worthy artists who haven't received nearly as much press.

This time around, the most well-known name in the line-up is Pinch, whose recent debut Underwater Dancehall has been hailed as dubstep's next great album (an assessment that at least one fellow PopMatters scribe may agree with). His two Box tracks possess a menacing dissonance that isn't normally associated with dub. On "Step 2 It", he interrupts vocalist Rudey Lee's smooth crooning with blips and crashes that might make it difficult for listeners to "meditate on the vibes," as Lee advises us to do in the lyrics. On this song and "Chamber Dub", Pinch leaves his bass lines in hover, untethered to anything approaching melody.

Pinch's tracks are easy listening, though, compared to some of the others. Cult of the 13th Hour's "Wickedness" boasts a hissing, blistering beat, atop which a stentorian vocalist commands an unnamed force to "bring this greedy nation down to its knees". It's the kind of track I would imagine Linton Kwesi Johnson making if he weren't so busy writing books and lecturing. Sub Version's "Soul-Jah Boogie" is even scarier. Almost every sound in the song that isn't bass or drums is run through so much reverb, delay and panning that listening to it makes me feel like I'm sitting at the bottom of a well, while surrounding trains derail all around me. It is, hands down, my favorite song on Box.

The contributions by Digital Mystikz ("Thief in Da Night", "Third One") and Cotti are the closest that Box comes to sounding like traditional dub, with arrangements that are both lusher and more melodic than anything else on the compilation. Cotti's "Let Go Mi Shirt", in particular, boasts three-part vocal harmonies (courtesy of Kingpin) that hark back to classic reggae groups such as Culture and the Mighty Diamonds. However, this music is called "future dub" for a reason. Even the compilation's most retro tracks are created through synthesizers, samplers and sequencers, as opposed to "real" instruments. The technology used by these artists may have been unfathomable to dub artists three decades ago, even ones as imaginative as Lee "Scratch" Perry. If you've been looking for an entry point to one of the most interesting subgenres in contemporary music, here it is.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.