Sunday, February 24, 2013

Duppy Gun & I Jahbar - "Spy"

In my list of the best albums of 2012, the Congos’ collaboration with young psychedelic trailblazers Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras came in at number 9. In my little write-up about the record, I made the perhaps too lofty claim that the record represents dub’s future and said that “if dubstep is one direction of dub’s inevitable progression, then Icon Give Thank will hopefully inspire a legion of likeminded artists who will forge an alternate path into dub’s future.” Araw and Gengras had no desire to wait for other artists to pick up where they left off with the Congos, so they formed a production team called Duppy Gun and returned to Jamaica where they allegedly recorded a ton of material with unknown local talents. Upon their return to the states, Stones Throw Records head Peanut Butter Wolf got wise to the sounds emanating from the Duppy Gun and signed a deal to distribute 12” singles by the group. The first, released in late December of last year, was pretty much exactly what I hoped would follow Icon Give Thank. The a-side, “Multiply” featuring Dayone, is the highlight, and sounds like the evil cousin of the material on the album with the Congos, trading out the upbeat harmonies for a lone pained voice echoing above the brilliant instrumental bed. The b-side “Earth” takes its cues from the DJ-led dub of U-Roy and other legendary toasters, and features some great toasting from the all but unknown Early One. Almost no information is given on either of these vocalists, and it is unclear how Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras found them.

The second bullet from the Duppy Gun is shaping up to be similarly mysterious. The a-side, “Spy” featuring I Jahbar, is the duo’s take on dancehall. When they take on a form of reggae that had its genesis several years after the roots and dub that they’ve previously worked with, their songs sound even more futuristic, and the end product sound like ragga hip hop recorded on whatever planet Shabazz Palaces hails from. I Jahbar’s lyrics are pretty much impossible to understand in full, and they are frequently drowned out by the electronic beat. It strikes me as the weakest song that’s come out of the Duppy Gun camp so far, but I’m honestly probably not in the proper chemical mind state to judge this song. The b-side, “Up Wit U Baby!” features Lukani and is a reversioned take on “Multiply.” This would seem lazy were it not for the long history of versioning in dub and dancehall and the stuttered vocals and chopped up beat that set it apart from the original just enough to make owning both absolutely worth it. The members of Duppy Gun know what they’re doing, and future 12”s should be similarly indispensable to fans of future reggae.

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