2017 was Von D’s busiest year release wise (nine in total to be exact), and with the Frenchman’s vigour for variation “Frictions”, to me, seems like a culmination of what Von D has previously proven he can do. His older releases brought some varying influences to the table: jazzy, chilled vibes with a French twist (I implore you to listen to Daydreaming, if you haven’t). Fast forward to last year, where almost every Von D release seem drenched in dub. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the dubby sound, but I do appreciate its musical purpose. With “Frictions”, however, it is different. It’s the first release on Dub’s Galore, a label with the motto: “Putting the dub back in dubstep”. I got a bit shaky when I first read this, but after exploring the track, I think I see what their vision is aiming for.
Before I walk through the track I have a couple of remarks about the totality of the track. It’s clear that “Frictions” is a brilliant equilibrium between classic reggae-dub and the deeper dubstep sound. Von D uses a mix between digital plugins, some old analog effects (my guess would be the usage of a ‘Troots AD1 Dub Echo’) and, even though a magician doesn’t reveal his tricks, Von D stated that there is some custom handmade equipment as well. This works. Getting the crisp and the punch from today’s digital age, combined with the warmth and ‘organicness’ of analog equipment works like a charm, and “Frictions” shows that.
The track itself is a happy stepper, made for the dancefloor. If I think about the way the usual dubstep gig goes I would place this track at the end of a first set, or in the first half of the second set of the evening. This is not a “wow-factor” track. This is a track to lose yourself in, it just keeps going and going. It doesn’t surprise you with a strange sound or a beat switch, but it pulls you into its atmosphere and keeps you there for a moment. This is where I have to give some mad respect to Rider Shafique. I usually dislike vocals in music. Okay, there are some exceptions but they are few and far in between. There hasn’t really been a dubstep track yet that I preferred with vocals. Well; now there is. Rider Shafique keeps me in the zone, and his political statements, expressed in a soothing, melancholic way add to the song in a way that it decreases the ‘happiness’ and ‘quirkiness’ of the horns and dub-effects. It makes “Frictions” a solid, continuous, same-ambiented experience. A bit darker than the instrumental version, also.
I am pleasantly surprised. Dub’s Galore might have hit bank here. With “Frictions”, Von D has found and explored a combination of sound that fits perfectly in the times we are in now. Honouring the, still alive, reggae/dub scene and intertwining it with deep, heavy vibes that push you on. All in all, a very sturdy release by an established artist. Von D has shown us before that he can produce many different styles, now he has shown us that he can combine the best of both worlds. I wonder what is next.