There’s a convincing feel to the sound of Portsmouth-based dub/reggae trio Lord Tooth who compose and perform live original dub in a style very much inspired by the pre-digital Jamaican productions of the 70s. Their recorded sound is now starting to provide a more enduring record of their latter-day dub excursions. Their first EP ‘The Younger Dub’ was released on American dub/reggae online label Boom One Records last September, its title track providing a gentle and authentic-sounding take on the classic dub era while ‘Train Go By’ gives us a sharper echo-laden dub sound.

Elsewhere they can be found to turn in a version of ‘Roxanne’ which injects something new and slightly weird into the familiar skanking chords of that great reggae tune and you may even have the opportunity to locate a rather unexpected account of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ which works considerably better than might be expected. But their dubs are not all covers of old stuff, there is plenty of other material and its production quality on their recorded output is impressive indeed. Live, featuring  bassist/vocalist Lyra Blackwa and instrumentalist Luxembourg, it should be even better.

Reggae/hip-hop duo Trinity Lo Fi generate their own distinctive latter-day digital sort of sound, uniquely straddling reference points in Scandinavia and the north of England. Working with Norwegian producers, Helgeland 8 Bit Squad, the Newcastle-based outfit (comprising Jody Bigfoot and Louie Zico) are aiming to perform this year at several venues in Norway and the UK including Boomtown Fair, Boom Bap Festival and what they say are “some more UK festival gigs to be confirmed.”

Trinity Lo Fi are currently planning their debut album for Summer 2014 release. Meantime their urgent and immediate take on dancehall/reggae/hip-hop comes over loud and clear in this clip, featuring Nordic production and the Get Carter-ish bridges of Newcastle.

Trinity Lo Fi – Normalt For Oss (LoFi Relick)

As we all know, the Wailers’ album Catch a Fire (1973) became a turning-point in the international development of reggae music. But its impact has been controversial, particularly in the way its original sound – the music of the Wailers themselves – was augmented by hired rock musicians designed to broaden its appeal. The ‘deluxe’ two-CD Catch a Fire (2001) provided a rare opportunity to compare the ‘original’ Jamaican versions of the songs alongside the album as released in the UK, and to re-evaluate the music within.

Prior to the early 1970s, the UK market for reggae had largely been confined to singles. These varied massively in nature and quality. Marcia Griffiths’ and Bob Andy’s Young Gifted and Black (1970) was straightforward reggae based on drums, rhythm guitar and bass, with the unfortunate addition of an overblown string arrangement intended to boost commercial appeal (try to hear the original without the strings – for instance on the Trojan Records sampler CD 2002, TJPCD 001 – it’s worth it). Jimmy Cliff’s Vietnam (1970) was a thoughtful attempt to move toward new audiences. Other releases maintained the depressing British tradition of the novelty reggae single: did anyone really buy Johnny Reggae by the Piglets (1971)? Apparently so, as it reached the top 3. In contrast, the socially conscious Jimmy Cliff got to no 46. More »

Lee ‘Stratch’ Perry, pre-eminent reggae producer, started out in Kingston, Jamaica, in the late 1950s, initially working for Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd. Perry operated Dodd’s sound system and helped to bring acts like the Maytals to a wider audience. By the late 60s, Perry was established. Taking his nickname from the single Chicken Scratch, he worked briefly with leading producer Joe Gibbs before recording his seminal track The Upsetter, the name under which Perry’s many dubs, versions and musicians would henceforth be billed. Perry then went on to produce the Wailers at that crucial point between the late 60s and their signing to Island in 1972 (see feature on Catching a Fire…)

Perry’s skills now turned to perfecting his own style, which became synonymous with dub versions of his own vocal productions. Working alongside the first true dub producer Osbourne Ruddock (better known as King Tubby), Perry went on to build his own studio, Black Ark. From 1974 tto the end of the decade this studio provided the unique sounds to be found in the important collection, Arkology (Island, 1997). This three-CD set provides both an excellent introduction to his music and some of the best productions he ever came up with. More »