Critical 5: Indie Dub
- Best of List
Contemporary artists indebted to dub.
The earliest dub pioneers found a winning formula with skeletal rhythm tracks, heaps of delay and echo, and leftfield sound effects. This sparse approach was ideal for endless variation and experimentation in its own right, but some of today's most progressive indie artists have found that dub can also provide a stone-solid foundation for their own ventures into new sonic dimensions. Here, we take a look at some of our favorite current artists who have recently repurposed and expanded upon the strange, watery and thunderous sounds associated with the genre.
You must be doing something right if you have the approval of The Congos. In addition to his recent collaboration with the legendary roots band, Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw has spent the last several years pumping out epic-length psychedelic monoliths that draw equally from the marathon jamming of Afrobeat and the séance vibe of nocturnal dub classics like Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle.
Out of all the artists on this list, husband and wife team Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes of Peaking Lights have probably produced the music that leans closest to the first wave of dub. They've also collected and championed dub obscurities that might never have otherwise made the blogosphere rounds. That said, with their excellent most recent effort, Lucifer, they've fashioned their sound into something bubbly, futuristic and wholly new.
If Real Estate's breezy jangle is the musical equivalent of being sprawled out on a beach, then Ducktails, the side-project from guitarist Matt Mondanile, can be found just a few yards over, meditating on a tide pool. All squiggly wah-wah slathered in echo, Ducktails, like Augustus Pablo's vibrant East of the Nile River, conjures up miles of summery imagery. However, Mondanile freshens the concept by giving his tropical soundscapes a nostalgic, suburban bent. If Police & Thieves had been a vintage arcade game, it might've sounded something like this.
Gang Gang Dance
Avant-garde electronic crew Gang Gang Dance has developed a clubby, tribal kind of poly-pop. The band has proven they're capable of absorbing influences from all corners of the globe, and the pleasure of their songs comes with the almost suffocating intensity of hearing these disparate sounds fighting for space. This kind of tension necessitates occasional free-floating breakdowns that swim in a reverberating murk owing to both goth rock and dub.
Is there anyone more responsible for bringing dub into modern indie rock's lexicon than Noah Lennox? It's tough to imagine the existence of the aquatic, relaxed strains of both guitar and sample-based pop that have taken root in recent without his Person Pitch, an already widely influential album that peaks with the twelve-minute "Bros." Here, Lennox finds the commonalities between Lee "Scratch" Perry and Brian Wilson by using samples of animal squawks, crying babies and laughter, resulting in a new kind of dubby psych pop that's like a coloring book come to life, a rollercoaster tour of a zoo or a thousand other candied daydreams.