Peaking Lights and Mark Stewart Releases Reach Back to Dub Reggae

Peaking Lights photo by David Black. Mark Stewart photo by Chiara Meattelli & Dominic Lee.

Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.

“It was a ‘mistake’… one evening them a cut dub plate and when them cut, it’s difficult to put in the voice, and Smithy a go stop it and Rudolph ‘Ruddy’ Redwood say, ‘No, make it run.’ When it done, him say it art and me and Tubbys stand up right there so, me look ‘pon Tubbys and Tubbys look ‘pon me..”

— Jamaican studio producer Bunny Lee recalling the invention of dub in David Katz’s oral history of reggae Solid Foundation

Founded upon a studio muck-up in the early 1970s, “dub” as its own mutant strand of music soon overtook the Jamaican music scene, a sonic virus not unlike a dystopian sci-fi flick of the same era. Almost every Jamaican 45 featured a dub of itself on the flip side, both for economic reasons (it’s cheaper to fill a side with an already-recorded track) and because such novelty was a hit in the dancehalls. And the hotter the riddim (or beat), the more permutations followed. As David Toop wrote in his book, Ocean of Sound: “The rise of the version would ultimately pave the way for the experimental contours of dub, in which previously recorded songs would be remixed to emphasize drum and bass.”

Dub was process music, a way of re-imagining the very act of recording that paved the way for the remix, edit, rework, etc. From there, dub and its time warping properties — enacted via delay, reverb, and body-melting bass tones — radiated outward until it infected music around the world. Dub warped the time-space of not just reggae, but also disco, UK punk and new wave, hip-hop, ’80s boogie, German minimal techno, and American pop, and — most obviously in 2012 — dubstep.

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