Last time we heard a homegrown transmission from DJ Madd’s reggae inflected label, Roots & Future, was way way way back in August 2013 with ‘Homeland / Follow Dub’. Fast forward to 2014 and the crop of labels with reggae DNA in their blood that have filled the void and created quite the competition. Perhaps DJ Madd was a tad precognizant. Fear not lions, DJ Madd returns with the third slab of wax for his label and it’s a doozy that’ll hit you in the lungs the way hi-grade sensi does.
Pon di A-side ‘I-N-I’ utters its message of intent about creating “music to play on the soundsystem”. The voices of rasta ghosts from deep dubspace are spread liberally across the entirety of the thuddering, niyabinghi inflected romper. Quick steppin’ percs and obeah synths add some dread to whole construct as dub sirens refract into the themselves in Fibonacci fractals. Wheezing organ stabs, dubbed horns, and space echoed melodica motifs are thrown into the thick gumbo of ‘I-N-I’ – splashing and splattering their way about, adding melodic color. Tasteful dungeon growls that luckily are few and far between enough to not muck up the rest of the riddim and give some teeth to the volcanic hill duppy that shake the branches of trees and howl in the night. And to top it off, a plummeting sub-line that’ll wriggle your intestines if you stand to close to the speaker.
Thick reggae guitar chops and a repeated mantra of ‘gunshot gunshot gunshot gunshot’ open the aptly titled ‘Gunshot Riddim’. Heavily hi-pass filtered hi-hats inna King Tubby style are a delightful production trip. A steppa-indebted rhythm framework soon emerges, coming armed with Jah lightning and thunder fi Babylon. Thick cow hide congas toughen the rather sparse and tumbling percussion, however the vocal mantra returns from dubspace bringing along with it a head-warping flanged synth line that unravels your DNA. The steppa riddim resumes and carries us along with it, uncaring if we like it or not.
Finally, DJ Madd saves the floor wrecking ‘Burnin Dance’ for last. Like a zulu warrior, ‘Burnin Dance’ is armed with spring-loaded snare cracks that fall back into themselves, creating a really interesting psychedelic effect that was born from the streets of Kingston where murder happened upon the steps of a colonial residence without a moment’s hesitance. Carnival organs urge our feet to cavort in union as the speaker cones crack under the weight of the b-line. Rastaman toasting command us that “when the fiyah starts, put it out inna dance.” The floor is warm from the feet of the dancer’s relentless stomping and skanking. The air is warm too, thick and hazy with spliff smoke. Flecks of niyabinghi and conga intermingle like sensi and rum in the blood. ‘Burnin Dance’ leads us to it’s ultimate plan of utter dance floor abandon, a burning dance.
DJ Madd’s third installment of his Roots & Future label is another gem of reggae-inspired dubstep and you should definitely cop it. I would/am. Ok, now with that being said (I hope this doesn’t turn into an op-ed), the increasing presence of reggae inspired labels and tunes floating around atm is a double edged sword. On the one hand, its a way of paying homage to the roots, and on the other hand it inundates the scene with too many samey sounds – this whole argument cropped up when dungeon became a thing – increasingly the only worthy 140 vinyl to purchase has been increasingly of the reggae persuasion. I foresee many vinyl DJ’s constantly playing the same songs, mixes beginning to sound the same, you can’t tell the DJs apart, etc etc. I just fear for the scene like an over-protected mother. I just want to see a variety of influences, some experimentation, some risking-taking back in the scene is all.