Friday, April 23, 2010

In Dub
Melody Maker, 1990?

by Simon Reynolds

A smart move, this. The voices were always an obstacle to enjoying Renegade Soundwave, carrying as they did all kinds of unwelcome connotations: "street credibility"; a clenched, unsmiling masculinity redolent of The Godfathers; a blunt, thuggish menace that colluded with the confrontation-by-numbers subject matter (gangsters, drugs'n'sex, petty crime, nailbiting). Eliminating the human factor has the salutary effect of bringing to the fore Renegade Soundwave's forte: the science of b.p.m., the architectonics of dub-space, dance music as girders and gradients. More groups should leave themselves out of the picture.

This depersonalised dancescape is mirrored in ciphered titles like "Phantom Sex" and "Pocket Porn Dub". In the RSW universe, contact and involvement have been supplanted by voyeurism and the masturbatory pleasure of 'remote control'; "hot" desire (passion, narrative, motivation) has been superceded by "cool" fascination (surface sensationalism, the instantaneous, chance). The debut album dealt with these preoccupations explicitly; "In Dub" transmits the information non-verbally but just as effectively. Welcome to hyper-reality.

Apparently, CD players fill in the miniscule errors on CD's by making a considered estimate of what the missing fragment would have sounded like. And it's said that if you deliberately damage a CD you can trick the computer to compose it's own spectral cyber-music that strays further and further from the organic original. "Phantom Sex" sounds like such a computer impersonation of rare groove, the chuntering, clavinet-squelching bump'n'grind turned to geometry. After this, however, Side One doesn't quite zap the nerve nodes. "Bacteria" is stripped down too far, until all that's left is a skeletal grid-beat drained of funk, plus some Andean flutes and mandolins. "Transition" suggests a desolate, uninhabited dancefloor, but is just too remote. "Pocket Porn" is creepy and clammy, but ends before it gets going, sounds like an off-cut of a grander garment.

"In Dub" comes into its own on the second side. "Women Respond To Bass" is still low-key, but spiritual with it: an almost ECM guitar twinkles in the far corner of the horizon, intangible whorls and eddies of ambient sound flicker at the thresholds of audibility. "Holgertron", by contrast, is upfront, predatory electro, a stalking cyborg-tarantula. "Recognise & Respond" elaborates a fantastical dub-labyrinth of archways and corridors. "Air Hostess" makes the album's solitary concession to "heart and soul" with an interlude of lachyrmose chords, but is mostly disembodied and decentred: at times, it really does sound like the body of the song has been eviscerated, but the hacked-off limbs continue to keep strict time.The closing "Black Eye Boy" is the album's only outright dub reggae, with a mesmering cymbal pattern and horns that plummet lugubriously into the abyss between the beats.

"In Dub" is neither feet-motivating nor heart-pumping, but rather a cerebral pleasure. At best, it provokes a detached, cold admiration; at worst, a blank feeling of disconnection. It's asocial, an event that happens only to solitary individuals: no dancefloors will be fired up by this 'dance music'. In the same way that modern cyber-technology turns the human mind into a screen, "In Dub" organises your headspace like a mixing desk. Prepare to have your consciousness remixed.


as sampled by Omni Trio:

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