Riddim magazine review

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Reggae historian David Katz, one of Dub Echoes interviewees, wrote a review for Germany’s Riddim magazine.

Click on the image to read it in German or here to read the review in English.

Dub Echoes DVD Review
by David Katz

Brazilian filmmaker Bruno Natal spent several years shooting and editing Dub Echoes, and the dedication he devoted to the project really shows. The end result is a thoughtful and illuminating film that is easily the most complete dub document we have yet been given.

The film is based on a fine set of interviews with many of dub’s most important innovators, including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Prince Jammy, Bunny Lee, U Roy, Sly and Robbie, Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood, Bullwackie, Dennis Bovell, and Ticklah. There are also contextual contributions from Steve Barrow, Don Letts and DJ Spooky (not to mention Yours Truly), plus interviews with various techno and hybrid music creators that have drawn on dub, such as G Corp, Thievery Corporation, Peter Kruder, Bill Laswell, Basement Jaxx, Dreadzone, Roots Manuva, Congo Natty, Kode 9, 2 Many DJs, Howie B, and Beat Junkies, as well as producer Mario Caldato and some dub-influenced Brazilian acts. How’s that for a line-up?

The film is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the evolution of dub in Jamaica, the second exploring its resonance outside the island. It starts with an exploration of sound system culture, guided by U Roy, followed by explorations of version and dub, guided by Bunny Lee, Lee Perry and Jammy, among others. There are sections devoted to King Tubby and Perry, a look at dub’s evolution and how dub led to the rise of the deejay.

Part two shifts to New York for a blast on dub’s relation to hip-hop, guided by Roots Manuva and the Beat Junkies. Then Don Letts and others take us through dub’s relation to punk. Under The Influence goes fully into the techno zone, with the importance of ‘low end’ bass frequencies highlighted, before Congo Natty, Kode 9 and others take us through the intricacies of Drum and Bass and Dubstep. Around The World traces the many forms dub has sparked all over the globe, before some ‘Final Thoughts’ give us a summary of dub’s lasting influence. And if all that is not enough, there are five extra chapters included on the DVD, in which Mad Prof and Sly explore the difference between analog and digital, and Jammy and others debating dancehall’s antipathy to dub, plus a range of protagonists giving dub belated recognition, showing dub love, and debating the merits of vinyl in the internet age.

Naturally, for an old school dub-head like me, Part 1 is far more interesting than Part 2, but that is not to suggest that the film lost my attention halfway. One thing I particularly liked is that there is no narration, being simply a series of statements by music makers who know what they are talking about. However, this could arguably be seen as a weakness, depending on the viewer’s prerogative. There is very little action, and no archive footage; instead, this is very much a film of talking heads, which can feel a bit tedious, and some minor editing glitches occasionally interfere with continuity, but these are truly minor quibbles. There is also some nice incidental music from Digital Dubs, Rio’s most prominent and adventurous dub crew.

Soul Jazz have created an ideal package for this entity in that the DVD is double-sided, allowing region-free play as PAL or NTSC, and subtitles can be turned on and off as needed. Anyone with even the remotest interest in dub should run right out and buy this DVD immediately, while techo-heads will also learn a lot about where their music came from. The film has already been honoured at several international film festivals and it certainly deserves accolades. By putting together this film, Bruno Natal has done dub proud, giving it the kind of recognition and respect it truly deserves.

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