(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CD review - Dub Skin, No End in Time (2009)

I've reviewed Ft Collins' Dub Skin's live show, when they opened for the Easy Star All-Stars. This time, I gave a listen to their newest CD, No End In Time. Their live show was good, but they sound even better here. The conscious lyrics, the Burning Spear sound, and great bass and drums -- everything fits together just-so.

No End in Time grabbed my ear from the very start with the instrumental, Dubway Station. The spacious mix and moody ska groove sound like Ghost Town by the Specials. A simple keyboard chank and stepping bass line provide a nice grounding for all kinds of little fills and leads. When the song slips into double time around 2:40, things get a little trippy in a dub style.

It's easy to miss the point and reduce reggae to the chank beat. This mistakes anything with a similar reverse emphasis qualifies as "reggae". True reggae, though, is all about fitting together a collection of intricate parts which still fall together as a groove. On the surface, the music is simple. But, listening closely, you can hear the complexity of odd little percussion fills, the perfect background vocal parts, and tasty little keyboard parts.

Dub Skin understands this. Songs like Calm Before the Storm and Conquer Rome have a simple structure and are easy to listen to. The deeper immersion reveals the drummer's perfect fills kicking into the chorus and the odd bits of echoed keyboard and percussion decorating the corners of the tune. The guitar leads organically flow from the groove and seem less like an ego pose compared to a lot of rock music.

Another great track is Strongest Foundation, which brings back some of that ska sound. Repeated reverb-drenched guitar fills and echo saturated vocal parts mesh perfectly with the punchy drum sounds (especially the tom work). The song flows into a psychedelic dub jam that sets the mood without dragging on for too long.

I can't wait to catch Dub Skin live again. I'd love to hear some of these songs live. No End in Time is available for free download from their site. Check it out and if you like it, either catch them live or buy their debut release from digstation.com so they get paid.

Now, I'm thirsty for some home brewed ginger beer.

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