Beautiful dubby weirdness plumbing the subterranean depths and playing laser tag among the stars. ROIR Dub Sessions is a sampler of one song each from Laswell’s four dub CDs for the NYC indie punk and reggae label ROIR: “Dread Iternal” from Sacred System Chapter One: Book of Entrance, “Thunupa” from Sacred System Chapter Two, “Cybotron” from Dub Chapter 3, and “Ethiopia/The Lower Ground” from Book of Exit: Dub Chapter 4.
“Dread Iternal” (’96) is in the classic King Tubby reggae dub tradition, with a spare recurring piano line echoing across of the mix, motivated by Laswell’s towering bass, and augmented by the periodic opening whoosh and closing basso boom of massive doors (Mordor?), denatured guitar noodling, revving of a not yet invented engine, and hints of dark energy.
“Thunupa” (’97) burrows through the space/time continuum like a four-dimensional Bugs Bunny and emerges in Arabia, India, Jamaica, and Miles Davis’s America of the ’60s assembled into one intoxicating post-modern quaff of a tune. Bill Buchen’s frenetic tabla is redolent of curry, the drumming of reggae-man Scott Style reeks of sticky ganja, the space-cornet of Graham Haynes wears darkest glasses, Laswell’s bass pops in for very heavy periodic visits, and the unsuspecting earth continues to twirl in place.
“Cybotron” (’00) funks it up in a galaxy far, far away as Jah Wobble joins in for double your bottom-end cruising pleasure, Nicky Skopelitis soul vamps on galactic guitar and Craig Taborn messages the keyboard, all over a choppy, tough beat tha eventually gives way to the whoosh of hyperdrive.
Lastly but not leastly is the splendiferous lushness of Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu “GiGi” Shibabaw’s voice on “Ethiopia/The Lower Ground” (’02), a departure from the boombastic bass-and-beats of Laswell’s other dub tracks. The setting here is delicate acoustic guitar and light electronics from Laswell, and subtle percussion from Karsh Kale and Aiyb Dieng, which around the 7-minute mark transforms from “Ethiopia” into the somewhat heavier “The Lower Ground,” adding dubby bass and subtracting GiGi for a protracted, groovy denouement.
Truly profound selections from the master Laswell.