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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Reggae Thrills From Dub Syndicate

February 02, 1996|DON SNOWDEN

After 25 years, dub reggae--a recording technique in which instrumental sounds are isolated and remixed into a sonic adventure--is gaining recognition as a major influence on pop and dance music. The Dub Syndicate, one of several groups on producer Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label, proved the case for dub's creative vigor with a thrilling local debut Wednesday at the Troubadour.

Watching Franklin Waul scurry around his bank of keyboards to add multiple textures, you could understand why dub producers adopt names like Mad Professor and Scientist. Dub is a kind of sonic guerrilla warfare on song form that depends on texture and dynamics--think of solo-less improvising around the groove, where overplaying would destroy the balance.

Dub Syndicate's material all sounded similar on the surface--hard roots reggae powered by Daniel Thompson's bass and flavored by electronic effects and vocal samples. But what went on inside the flexible, elastic arrangements was a constantly shifting ebb and flow, as layers of sound were added and subtracted and different facets came to the fore.

Drummer Style Scott's heavily echoed snare shots and cymbal crashes were omnipresent, and when they dropped out for brief stretches their absence was noticeable. The same went for the sampled vocal of Prince Far I on "Wa Da Da," or guitarist Leebert Morrison's changing up from rhythm chop to doubling the bass line to power-chording. Little things, but they dug deep and lingered long when delivered by the superb musicians of Dub Syndicate.

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