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The clean and crisp productions, along with a mixture of analog and digital instrumentation, certainly do not belie the power of the melodica in the hands of Art-X; yes, Augustus Pablo is being channeled here - Toy Story, it is safe to assume, is more Jamaica than Pixar - with the talented soloist joined by a bevy of experienced underground dub producers, most notably Lab Frequency, Manu Digital, Ondubground, and Panda Dub. 
Opener “Balls & Speed” (feat. Roots Raid) has a hint of analog crackle before the tight drums and keys spill nicely into a soulful melodica hook, teased by sound effects. “Dub Woman” prioritizes a funky groove, with a wordless vocal sample kept short. The epic intro of “Pull It Up” paves the way for a reserved electro steppers tune from Dawa Hifi; “Musical Town” sounds like Mungo’s Hi Fi’s Ruff Mi Tuff Riddim except that the expected rough vocals are replaced by a smooth blow-organ melody. That’s the key here: Art-X is clearly cultivating a myriad of sounds, but by interweaving the standout melodica wisely, what could have easily been vintage nostalgia is instead comfortable yet inventive - 70s Jamaican vibes with 40 years of outernational influence. 
“Dub That” is a solid jam with Ondubground, echoes and reverb in all the right places; Panda Dub takes the controls on “Cotton” with similarly strong results. “Swimming Dub” brings thicker bass into the mix, a trend logically continued on “Heavy Blow” (feat. Hatman). Then “Inity” takes things to a deeper state of consciousness, with Miniman providing a sonic canvas worthy of the classic roots era. “Political War” is more upbeat steppers, with nary a pause, setting up the brassy closer “Radical Plan” by Brain Damage, which is heavy with some massive echo. A lot of standout tracks here, free download via Original Dub Gathering.
 
The clean and crisp productions, along with a mixture of analog and digital instrumentation, certainly do not belie the power of the melodica in the hands of Art-X; yes, Augustus Pablo is being channeled here - Toy Story, it is safe to assume, is more Jamaica than Pixar - with the talented soloist joined by a bevy of experienced underground dub producers, most notably Lab Frequency, Manu Digital, Ondubground, and Panda Dub.

 

Opener “Balls & Speed” (feat. Roots Raid) has a hint of analog crackle before the tight drums and keys spill nicely into a soulful melodica hook, teased by sound effects. “Dub Woman” prioritizes a funky groove, with a wordless vocal sample kept short. The epic intro of “Pull It Up” paves the way for a reserved electro steppers tune from Dawa Hifi; “Musical Town” sounds like Mungo’s Hi Fi’s Ruff Mi Tuff Riddim except that the expected rough vocals are replaced by a smooth blow-organ melody. That’s the key here: Art-X is clearly cultivating a myriad of sounds, but by interweaving the standout melodica wisely, what could have easily been vintage nostalgia is instead comfortable yet inventive - 70s Jamaican vibes with 40 years of outernational influence.

 

“Dub That” is a solid jam with Ondubground, echoes and reverb in all the right places; Panda Dub takes the controls on “Cotton” with similarly strong results. “Swimming Dub” brings thicker bass into the mix, a trend logically continued on “Heavy Blow” (feat. Hatman). Then “Inity” takes things to a deeper state of consciousness, with Miniman providing a sonic canvas worthy of the classic roots era. “Political War” is more upbeat steppers, with nary a pause, setting up the brassy closer “Radical Plan” by Brain Damage, which is heavy with some massive echo. A lot of standout tracks here, free download via Original Dub Gathering.

 

Koncrete Roots has managed to dub far further afield than implied on Dub Ina Midlands. The latest for the continuingly impressive Dub-O-Phonic netlabel is a varied approach, teasing influences while exploring new sounds. “Warehouse Dub,” once its opening sample has properly set the mood, is a heavy steppers tune - complete with mutated vocals, a skanky breakdown, and the occasional bleep - before a bit of the Sleng Teng riddim emerges from the hazy depths. “River Jordan” sparks a dissonant 8-bit sound upon arrival, which seems at odds with the rugged vocal, but the dirge comes together nicely via a sparse drum and horn. “Bandulu Brukout” is light and airy by contrast, cleanly-produced groove-driven steppers; “Sound Killah” is as well, though with a more prominent sample and ample room to breathe, showing that Koncrete Roots is not afraid of the unpredictable space between the beats that proper dub requires. “Fisherman Dub” is eloquent, led by a smooth melody, which nicely leads into a dubplate of Mala, “Bury The Bwoy,” which is less layered than the original and more focused on the lead melodic sample. “Shuriken Dub” crackles and echoes, yet the groove and melodica are both tight, with new elements coming in at just the right moment. The opening flute of “Universal Dub” gives way to reverberating vocals and another thick steppers groove: an excellent understanding of pace keeps the track moving even when the layers are stripped away. The closing pair of “One Dub Beyond (Low Freq Bass Dubplate)” and “Inity Step” work together well, as the former’s slight glossiness gives way to the latter’s heavier electro dub gone grime. Far from predictable, this is an exciting mix of instrumental versions, eyeing both past and future with a proper sense of perspective. Promising indeed, and a free download to boot:
 
Dub ina Midlands by Koncrete Roots
 
“Warehouse Dub” also provides the instrumental aspect of my latest mashup, “No Thrift Dub.” It’s paired with Ed Sheeran feat. Passenger’s acoustic mashup of “No Diggity” and “Thrift Shop.” Hopefully you’ll agree that ‘this is freaking awesome:’
 

 
Koncrete Roots has managed to dub far further afield than implied on Dub Ina Midlands. The latest for the continuingly impressive Dub-O-Phonic netlabel is a varied approach, teasing influences while exploring new sounds. “Warehouse Dub,” once its opening sample has properly set the mood, is a heavy steppers tune - complete with mutated vocals, a skanky breakdown, and the occasional bleep - before a bit of the Sleng Teng riddim emerges from the hazy depths. “River Jordan” sparks a dissonant 8-bit sound upon arrival, which seems at odds with the rugged vocal, but the dirge comes together nicely via a sparse drum and horn. “Bandulu Brukout” is light and airy by contrast, cleanly-produced groove-driven steppers; “Sound Killah” is as well, though with a more prominent sample and ample room to breathe, showing that Koncrete Roots is not afraid of the unpredictable space between the beats that proper dub requires. “Fisherman Dub” is eloquent, led by a smooth melody, which nicely leads into a dubplate of Mala, “Bury The Bwoy,” which is less layered than the original and more focused on the lead melodic sample. “Shuriken Dub” crackles and echoes, yet the groove and melodica are both tight, with new elements coming in at just the right moment. The opening flute of “Universal Dub” gives way to reverberating vocals and another thick steppers groove: an excellent understanding of pace keeps the track moving even when the layers are stripped away. The closing pair of “One Dub Beyond (Low Freq Bass Dubplate)” and “Inity Step” work together well, as the former’s slight glossiness gives way to the latter’s heavier electro dub gone grime. Far from predictable, this is an exciting mix of instrumental versions, eyeing both past and future with a proper sense of perspective. Promising indeed, and a free download to boot:

 

 

“Warehouse Dub” also provides the instrumental aspect of my latest mashup, “No Thrift Dub.” It’s paired with Ed Sheeran feat. Passenger’s acoustic mashup of “No Diggity” and “Thrift Shop.” Hopefully you’ll agree that ‘this is freaking awesome:’

 

 

Saving the best until last is surely some sort of cliche, but Major Lazer have managed to do exactly that with the sixth, and presumably final, installment of their Lazer Strikes Back series. The Last Chapter gives Mungo’s Hi Fi (7 tracks) and So Shifty (4 tracks) seemingly free reign over the Free The Universe catalog; a wide spectrum of influences are covered, with some solid results. Mungo’s dubs first, and instantly dominates, moving from opener “Mash Up The Dance,” with its simmering-then-exploding modern dancehall, to “Bumaye,” with its crisp yet heavy moombahton. The latter is connected by a horn line to “Watch Out Fi Ska,”which then also reprises the opener’s vocals. With elements in flux, the groove takes the lead. For “Sweat,” on the “Honky Mix” it’s thick brass and sparse bass; on the “Garage Dub” it’s controlled steppers into bass-line-driven funky chorus. This leads into “Smooth Sailing,” with Mr. Williamz on a surprisingly frank and introspective tale of moving on from a broken heart. A rocksteady throwback, its melody-driven vibe shows a softer side of both vocalist and producer. Mungo’s final contribution is “Get Free,” which, along with fellow massive track “Jah No Partial,” receives a sufficiently catchy revamp. The former successfully removes the electro kitsch in exchange for a somewhat subtle 8-bit vibe while the latter introduces a massive bass line amidst a proper dubstruction, effectively making So Shifty’s mark on the album. Might be the best version of the Johnny Osbourne update yet… 
 
The rest of the album glides by, with melodic self-help motivational tool “Reach For The Stars” narrowly avoiding cheesy oblivion. This glossier tone allows “Playground” room to stretch - big-room bass, auto tune and falsetto into the female lead vocal, a vibe continued by catchy pop closer “Keep Cool.” Ultimately the Major Lazer x Mungo’s collaboration makes Vol. 6 memorable, though So Shifty arguably produce the finest single track. Free stream and download via Soundcloud:
 

 
[Tracks reviewed in the order posted on Soundcloud, actual order is reversed upon downloading. You can decide which order you enjoy more and then base your own review off of that.]
 
Saving the best until last is surely some sort of cliche, but Major Lazer have managed to do exactly that with the sixth, and presumably final, installment of their Lazer Strikes Back series. The Last Chapter gives Mungo’s Hi Fi (7 tracks) and So Shifty (4 tracks) seemingly free reign over the Free The Universe catalog; a wide spectrum of influences are covered, with some solid results. Mungo’s dubs first, and instantly dominates, moving from opener “Mash Up The Dance,” with its simmering-then-exploding modern dancehall, to “Bumaye,” with its crisp yet heavy moombahton. The latter is connected by a horn line to “Watch Out Fi Ska,”which then also reprises the opener’s vocals. With elements in flux, the groove takes the lead. For “Sweat,” on the “Honky Mix” it’s thick brass and sparse bass; on the “Garage Dub” it’s controlled steppers into bass-line-driven funky chorus. This leads into “Smooth Sailing,” with Mr. Williamz on a surprisingly frank and introspective tale of moving on from a broken heart. A rocksteady throwback, its melody-driven vibe shows a softer side of both vocalist and producer. Mungo’s final contribution is “Get Free,” which, along with fellow massive track “Jah No Partial,” receives a sufficiently catchy revamp. The former successfully removes the electro kitsch in exchange for a somewhat subtle 8-bit vibe while the latter introduces a massive bass line amidst a proper dubstruction, effectively making So Shifty’s mark on the album. Might be the best version of the Johnny Osbourne update yet…

 

The rest of the album glides by, with melodic self-help motivational tool “Reach For The Stars” narrowly avoiding cheesy oblivion. This glossier tone allows “Playground” room to stretch - big-room bass, auto tune and falsetto into the female lead vocal, a vibe continued by catchy pop closer “Keep Cool.” Ultimately the Major Lazer x Mungo’s collaboration makes Vol. 6 memorable, though So Shifty arguably produce the finest single track. Free stream and download via Soundcloud:

 

 

[Tracks reviewed in the order posted on Soundcloud, actual order is reversed upon downloading. You can decide which order you enjoy more and then base your own review off of that.]