Future Dub

Jan 27, 1999 at 12:00 am

For a quarter-century the dynamic duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have cranked out hits as session musicians, writers, producers and artists in their own right. Their success is founded on their unique interpretation of Jamaican music. Rather than following traditional styles, they have used tradition as a more generic type of musical canvas to create new sounds and rhythms. For those who don’t know, the title of their latest release is a play on words – "Drum and Bass" does not refer to a musical style (i.e. jungle) but to Sly (drum) and Robbie (bass) themselves. The style is known as dub, though. However – as can be expected – this is not your run-of-the-mill dub album.

Enlisting the production and mixing talents of British DJ, producer and remixer, Howie B., Strip to the Bone can best be described as future dub. Howie B. takes the "Riddim Twins" and puts them in a futuristic context, weaving synth lines and heavy effects throughout each of the 12 tracks. Imagine Jamaicans on Mars and vacationing on the moons of Saturn and you’ll get the picture.

And it doesn’t stop there. The first single, "Superthruster," while catchy, will undoubtedly bring to mind bad comparisons to Daft Punk. With good reason. Howie’s – and label Island Life’s – mission was to craft a CD that would impact fans of Sly & Robbie and dub, as well as the mass alterna-techno crowd that the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk have managed to attract. Never fear. Sly and Robbie’s years of collaboration show through in the most basic of tracks. Cuts like "Major Magic" and "Drilling for Oil" have enough ghetto sensibilities to appeal to hardcore hip-hop heads, while "Zen Concrete" and "High Voltage Syndrome" bring to mind some of the best Art of Noise slow jams. Urban radio will, no doubt, shy away from Strip, but music lovers in search of something more will be rewarded.