Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SCIENTIST: Scientist Meets the Roots Radics

Scientist - Scientist Meets the Roots Radics
During my first listen to this record, I was mesmerized by a moment deep in the A-side when Scientist strips away everything but Errol "Flabba" Holt's bass guitar and Lincoln "Style" Scott's snare drum. Flabba's bass is predictably MASSIVE, but I was transfixed by that snare drum; single shots, laid back, on the twos and fours.

Tock... Tock... Tock... Tock...

I hear so many snare drums. So do you. And the range is tremendous, from hypertight JB funk snaps to the moldy thud of low-maintenance garage drums. The ten-gallon freighters of the FM 1980s. The factory-floor press of steely electro. There are clops and cracks and whomps.

Style Scott supplies sonorous, supple snares; scientist strips sonics. This brief sound, foregrounded by subtraction, is beautiful. It's a collaboration between Styles (holding stick) and Scientist (tweaking knobs). EQ and slapback echo are applied with the artful precision of a seasoning chef.

And here's me, listening intently to single smacks of drumstick on a snare drum, a sonic event that happens every second or so in most pieces of rock, soul, hip-hop or metal. The sound of a snare drum (more a category of sounds, maybe, some of which aren't actually generated by an actual drum at all but by an electronic machine) might be the sound I have heard more often than any other sound in my lifetime. Most of the time, it's barely noticed, like the hum of my refrigerator or the windy, distant rush of traffic. I hear those snares without actually hearing them. And here's me listening to that sound like someone just invented it.

This is what I love about dub. This music has the patience and restraint to let us savor musical elements we usually take for granted. The sizzle of a hi-hat. The crack of a snare. A metronomic bassline. The single staccato scratch of a rhythm guitar. Reminded of the joy in these, we can take that joy with us, back to other listening experiences.

I like that the mixer and the band are given equal billing on this LP. Dub is a collaboration (no matter how after-the-fact). You may have heard the Roots Radics backing up Barrington Levy or Eek-a-Mouse. The notes on the back of the sleeve (I'm looking at the 2012 reissue) suggest that the Radics supplanted Sly and the Revolutionaries in a kind of torch-passing (marijuana reference not intended) from the age of Roots to the age of Dancehall. (Why aren't they called the Dancehall Radics?) Scientist, as you know, won the world cup and rid the world of the curse of the evil vampires. His most famous work (Vampires) is also a dub of Roots Radics riddims. This LP plays things a little safer than that one, but both are brimming with pleasures.

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