Sunday, October 21, 2007

Having not listened to dub before, I have gathered several “first impression” observations about the genre; some of which are justly highlighted in Veal’s book, DUB. I thought it was interesting to look at the characteristics of dub that define the genre. In the second chapter of Veal’s book, he discusses several of these production strategies that make dub what it is. These include: spatial effects due to the use of reverb and echo, the use of equalization to create differences in the textures of sounds, and the inclusion of extraneous material. The best utilization of all three of these seems to come about in King Tubby’s Fittest of the Fittest Dub. Although, with perhaps the exception of the inclusion of extraneous material, it seems to me that every Jamaican dub in the class material utilizes the exact same techniques to the extent that I would argue that most Jamaican dub sounds the same. To me, the only real distinctive factor between these dub songs is the amount of inclusion or exclusion of vocal tracks. Although, perhaps it is merely the trends that certain producers have that I am hearing.

Back on track, one technique that became particularly apparent to me upon listening to dub tracks, such as Fittest of the Fittest Dub, was the use of echo, reverb, and EQ sweeps all at the same time in order to transition between certain sections of the song. It seems that this transition is comprised of an echo effect that not only fades out as time progresses, but also drops out the low frequencies gradually, until all that are left are the high frequencies before it fades out to nothing, creating a phenomenal alteration in space and texture. One section of Tubby’s track in particular starts at 0:28 when the vocal track of the singer follows this progression. The effect arises several other times throughout the duration of the track. Veal describes this use of equalization best when he states, “Using the equalization and filtering controls, overtones of an instrument can be manipulated until it sounds full, warm, and robust, or until it sounds thin, shrill, and eviscerated. Applied to an entire ensemble, a group can sound as if it is expanding or diminishing in size.” I would argue that the effects transition I described previously follows Veal’s description linearly, going from “warm and robust” to “thin and shrill” as the echo fades. This is no doubt a defining characteristic of dub mixes as it arises in other dub mixes from artists other than King Tubby, including Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Lee Perry Upsetting Dub, King Jammy’s Black and White Dub, Sly & Robbie’s Burial Dub, as well as many others by these dub legends.

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