Dreadrocks: Dub Trio’s Metallic Progression

Dub Trio
Another Sound Is Dying
Ipecac Recordings
Released: 1.29.08

Rating: 9.25 out of 10

A couple years ago while Tower Records was in the midst of crumbling to oblivion, I picked up a discounted copy of New Heavy by Brooklyn-based, Dub Trio. Learning of them through their involvement with Mike Patton’s pop-experiment, Peeping Tom, (their collaborative “We’re Not Alone” was remixed for this record), New Heavy left a fairly indelible impression on me, an impression that immediately led me to pick-up their previous record, Exploring The Dangers Of. Aside from its somewhat obvious owing to the punk/reggae pathos that defines the mighty Bad Brains, New Heavy was also alive with the possible expansion of what could easily be called “limited.” It had the spirit of Lee Perry and an influx of Bill Laswell experimentation. But, most importantly, it rocked. Upon first listen I could visualize the glassed corneas of frat house inhabitants suddenly shatter while their smoke-born pilgrimages into new ideas and understanding, a pilgrimage initially influenced by Marley, were suddenly stomped into the beer-soaked carpet as a new dawn cracked their worlds apart and opened to them a land of harshed mellow. It made me smile a little bit.

Two years later, and the Trio has unsurprisingly moved their operation to Patton’s label, Ipecac Recordings, and come up with a new progression, Another Sound Is Dying.



Exchanging their Bad Brains rawness for more of a Helmet-based syncopated approach, Another Sound Is Dying finds the band at their most loud and, in some ways, most innovative. They’ve turned up the aggression even to the point of turning their typically mellowed dub sections into sinister interludes, momentary breaks before the guitars come to murder any relaxed or chilled vibe. Such is the case with opener, “Not For Nothing,” where the heavy riffs dissipate into distant howls as the bass maintains the song’s rhythm and speed, refusing to slow the pace while the drums echo so as to keep the dub aesthetic intact. Follower, “Jog On,” sticks to the formula but explodes into double bass drum blast beats before ending. “Bay Vs. Leonard” lightens the mood a bit, acting as more of a fun jam than a beat-your-face-against-the-wall-to-this-rhythm-section rock statement.

Yes, the album’s full of aggression, really confusing the dub concept with its attack and possibly trying to change the genre, or at least bend it a little bit so that it can accommodate more moods, sounds and sensibilities. Thus far, Dub Trio has avoided writing themselves into a corner from where there is no escape and, with Another Sound Is Dying, they do this not only through their determined and intense usage of their identifying sound, but with excluding it all together at points. “Felicitacion” combines metal sludge with a lonesome and beautiful guitar section midway, exchanging reggae for a feeling of isolation. “Respite,” also a rather melancholy little ditty, stays slowed up and hits some grunge-inspired riffs. Toward the end when it explodes into a wave of heavy guitar sounds, I had to stop myself from going, “If you want…to destroy my sweaterrrrrrr…pull the string as I wahlllllk ahwaaaaaaay…” But, then the sorrowful piano keys enter the picture, and the urge thankfully leaves my system.

And then there’s the Patton track, “No Flag:” solid, creepy and mighty. I think it’s only a matter of time before Patton and Trio make a full album. Having only two songs to their credit as a collaborative effort, it’s remarkable how well they work together.

“Mortar Dub” remains the only full dub track to be heard with its almost inebriated bass line. “Safe and Sane” also knocks its high-tempo opening to a straight-up crawl while “Fuck What You Heard” interrupts its dub section with sporadic guitar hits. “Funishment,” a gravelly bass thumper coupled with dissonant guitar squeals and effects, finishes the album off in an almost Aphex Twin hail of electro-static and percussion.

The only instance where a song feels out of place, is with “Agonist,” which feels like a straggler from New Heavy. Even the production on this track feels out of place and like a regression, recounting where they were only two years ago but sounding remarkably lightweight amidst the other songs herein.

Otherwise, remaining tracks “Regression Line” (my favorite), “Who Wants To Die?,” and “The Midnight Rider” (not to be confused with the Allman Bros.), enforce the aggression, add in their signature and throw in a few nuances to keep it from getting monotonous.

Overall, Another Sound Is Dying is a very strong collection of songs. Having made three very different records, each one displaying a need to move on and grow despite the potential dangers of being formulaic, Dub Trio’s next move won’t be too easy to come by. But, they persist in their craft, boasting one of the best rhythm sections in rock music right now and carving themselves a decent place in Alternamerica. Just looking forward to that Patton record that they’re bound to do.

Sincerely,
Letters From A Tapehead
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