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Published: 2011/04/26
by Brian Robbins

Dub Is A Weapon

Harmonized Records

The only downside to a studio recording of Dub Is A Weapon is the fact that you can’t see the band doing what they’re doing.

Taken just as it comes with no background on the band or knowledge of how the music was made, Dub Is A Weapon’s new Vaporized is easily enjoyed simply as an album of danceable dub.

The fact that these are all songs being performed live is the key to taking the enjoyment of DIAW’s music even further: the blending of melodic passages, improv journeys, rhythms, and counter rhythms are all governed by head, heart, soul, fingers, feet, and breath – rather than by a hand sliding the faders on a mixing board.

Think of the art of creating a dub mix of a given song as deconstructing and then reconstructing an already-recorded piece of music. The players may all still be there, but now they’re sonically reshaped. A front-and-center melodic theme is now a ghost that passes effortlessly through the piece, while a countermelody that was almost invisible in its original form washes over everything. Bass lines become the skin rather than the pulse; drums become voices for a moment, only to disappear and then return as bone. The song is the universe and the engineer is the Great Spirit; reality is reshaped by the faders.

What DIAW leader Dave Hahn has done is take the same approach to the process of dub as the pioneers of the genre did to the music they wanted to reshape all those years ago. If dub itself could be defined as electronically reconfiguring an organically-produced piece of music, then Hahn and his band have taken an organic approach to that electronic deconstruction/reconstruction process. The players are now the faders: sometimes Hahn cues the band’s sonic movement; sometimes they’re going by gut and the emotion of the moment.

Do you need to know all this to enjoy Vaporized? No.

But it does make what you’re hearing all the more impressive.

Probably the single biggest thing that dominates the nine cuts on Vaporized is the fact that DIAW has managed to retain all the smoky sweetness of dub’s good herb while bumping up the rush of the riddim. This music will make you want to move, boys and girls – and that’s a fact.

You’ll want to do a slow weave to Maria Eisen’s amazing sax break on “Turmoil” that becomes the backbone without ever dominating the mix. On “Curva Peligrosa”, Hahn’s guitar patrols the perimeter of the rhythm village built by percussionist Larry McDonald and drummer Madhu Siddappa. Wave your hands high as Brian Jackson’s whirling, roaring, wailing keys on “Seven Doors” testify from the pulpit while Ben Rogerson weaves rhythm skanks with Dan Jeselsohn’s most-funky bass. And when guest Rob Symeonn lays down the album’s only vocals on “Forwarding Home”, it only adds to the track’s sway and hypnotic groove.

With Vaporized, Dub Is A Weapon has managed something that many attempt but never quite pull off: they’ve put their own spin on a long-established genre while handling it with the respect it deserves. And made you want to shake your butt at the same time.

Pretty damn cool.

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