“I dub from inner to outer space. The sound I get out of Black Ark studio, I don’t really get it out of no other studio.
It was like a space craft. You could hear the space in the tracks.”
Kevin Martin (The Bug, King Midas Sound) and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz, 100% Dynamite, Sounds of the Universe) have compiled this ace double CD and quadruple vinyl set of electronic dancehall riddims. A bad-ass selection with some undoubted classics like Street Sweeper and Peanie Peanie alongside more outre examples of JA music at its eeriest. Also some more modern and UK produced fare like Kevin’s own Aktion Pak riddim.
I’ve had mixed feelings about the concept. On the one had I was championing the reggae/ragga afronaut connection a decade ago as part of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts and one of my first ever reggae DJ sets was at the Garage in Highbury during an AAA night as part of the 10 day Space 1999 festival. I even did an AAA presentation on dub as the basis for a new intergalactic architecture at a conference organised by Kodwo Eshun in Austria. More recently Wayne and Wax has produced an incredible critical survey of rasta imagery in science fiction in issue 4 of Woofah.
On the other hand, I’ve previously been forthright in my condemnation of people who only seem to like their dancehall with the sounds of black voices erased. I think, on reflection, this criticism is hugely unfair on the curators of the current comp (and indeed Basic Replay who I previously tore into) who have done more than most to promote reggae music in its ancient and modern forms over many many years. But I have always come across a few techno fans who seem to hate ragga vocals and that seems a bit… odd.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that a bass-driven sci-fi is a great alternate window to look at dancehall productions through, and this compilation seems like an excellent launchpad into that world, featuring a mad comic about aliens and bashment beats.
The comic was originally planned to be a radio play, but apparently time and budget didn’t allow this. But the street finds its uses for everything, as the old cyberpunk saying goes, so I was chuffed to hear that Dino Lalič and the Sensi Smile crew at Radio Student Ljubljana were going to remix the source material from the comp and its comic back into a radio play last weekend. I think they’ve done a terrific job – the accented narration adds to the spookiness and conjurs up cosmonauts of yesteryear to my ears. I love the blending of ragga with more Joe Meek-esque sixties futurism and dubwise material as well.
The Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds Radio Play was part of a whole evening’s entertainment on the station, which also included interviews with Stuart Baker, Paolo Parisi (the comic’s creator) and my good self. Mine was a live telephone interview, and listening to it again I am amused to find myself being an old fart talking about that yearning for the sonic future…
Much of the commentary is in Slovenian, so may not be decipherable to many of my readers, although the tunes are obviously universal – not to say outernational! Here are some time marks for you for the English language stuff:
1:23:00 Stuart Baker
1:51:30 Paolo Parisi
2:03:32 The Radio Play
3:08:22 John Eden