12/04/2021: “Tell Me” by Mr Lager featuring Alys Be

The soulful, melodic side of dubstep never gets the love it deserves. With a vocalist like Alys Be, with a smoky, tempting voice, the potential of all that open space typical of tracks in the genre is realised.

Dark, atmospheric synths kick the song off, but quickly give way to warm, jazzy synths, bubbling over with soft reverb.

The beat is a classic too. Agile, flitting hi-hats fill the air between snare hits with aplomb.

Naturally, given the genre, a thick sub bassline simmers throughout the song, adding that extra depth. Just wouldn’t be the same without it!

You can find the song on a 2010 EP released by Sub Freq Recordings, alongside solid remixes from Silkie, Distance and Von D.

11/04/2021: “Can’t Hardly Wait” by The Replacements

This song was a bit strong for the record company, as Pleased To Meet Me, The Replacements’ 1987 album, already had ‘The Ledge’ on. And two songs about suicide was judged a bit much…

To be honest, I don’t really get that. I find this song uplifting, and kind of thought it was just about going home.

The guitar riff and horns wouldn’t be out of place sound tracking a Disney movie, and it leaves you feeling wholesome.

As for the lyrics, it’s all a matter of interpretation. He talks about ‘being home when he’s sleeping’, but I don’t read that as wanting to be dead. Just that he’s tired after touring!

10/04/2021: “Give Me The Night” by George Benson

The Quincy Jones magic on this is palpable. Although the song was written by Rod Temperton, aka the maestro who wrote ‘Thriller’, Jones ensures the finished product has the sparkle necessary to wow.

George Benson, of course, is the other key player here. And his performance is brilliant, doing the song justice and more.

It’s the little touches which make this song such a classic. The backing vocals, for example, performed by Patti Austin, are simply wonderful!

The song marked Benson’s most solid foray into pop. He had dabbled in disco before, but he’d historically been a jazz guitarist.

‘Give Me The Night’ is the title track of the 1980 album, which has since gone platinum in the UK and US.

09/04/2021: “Senses” by New Order

There’s more to New Order than ‘Blue Monday’. Although that’s a classic tune, the group’s earlier work is worth some attention.

Released in 1981 on Movement, ‘Senses’ is still recognisably influenced by the group’s Joy Division origins, although it does lead with a chunky synth bass and features the distinctive guitar sound seen on ‘Blue Monday’.

It feels experimental, a transitional stage. Although nobody really ‘got’ it at the time, the debut album has become a landmark retrospectively, even if it does seem a bit confused.

08/04/2021: “Regal” by Dubkasm

Blending traditional Brazilian styles and instruments with reggae is a new one to me. But as everyone knows, Brazil adds an extra layer of spiciness to everything. So of course it’s brilliant!

“Regal” actually isn’t that influenced by Brazilian styles compared to some tracks on the 2018 Rastramentals album, but it has a rich, live sound that contrasts with Dubkasm’s more digital sounding tracks. It owes more to jazz, another of the duo’s starting points for the LP.

It’s an easy jam, with improvisational piano and free flowing guitar. And like with jazz, when all elements of the song sync up, it’s a moment of bliss.

07/04/2021: “When I Let You Down (Extended Mix)” by M&G

I found about this one relatively recently. I listened to it non-stop for a while. Then I paid over the odds to import it from Italy.

Zero regrets!

It’s an absolute belter of a tune. The vocals aren’t exactly world class but they are sung with feeling. And the production more than makes up for it!

The chugging bassline, gossamer synths and flitting hi-hats make for a solid track, and the other melody flourishes cement the groove.

The song was released in 1986 on Sensation Records in Italy.

06/04/2021: “Poltergeist” by Kromestar

Kromestar continues to innovate today to drive bass music forward, but in the mid to late noughties, his incredible work rate and distinctive sound made him a stalwart of the dubstep scene.

Take his 2009 LP, My Sound. Released on Dubstar records, it contains a collection of extra-terrestrial bangers with a meditative, dubby, and deep core.

Kromestar excels at simple, effective melodies and easy going rhythms. And, it must be said, his basslines are titanic…

“Poltergeist” is an example of the dark cuts from the album. It has a hint of paranoid menace, but is ultimately relaxing. It’s like hearing mint ice cream.

I love it!

05/04/2021: “Survival” by Annette Peacock

‘Genius’ gets thrown about a lot these days. But what does it mean?

Originality? Greatness? Vision?

Annette Peacock has all of those in spades. She was doing synthesizer music in the 60s, as she was given a prototype synth by Robert Moog of all people!

This one is, broadly speaking, Jazz-Fusion. It has elements of rock and funk, woven into a 14 minute odyssey of improvisational brilliance and easy grooves.

Not many people can get away with these sort of spoken word lyrics on a long track like this. Annette Peacock can. She exudes calm, cool style.

The song was released in 1979 on The Perfect Release. In my opinion, she’s criminally underrated…

04/04/2021: “Carefree Dub” by King Tubby and The Aggrovators

The rich, warm tones of King Tubby are unmistakable. The pulsing bassline provides a solid foundation for the track, but the melodic power of the track is undeniable.

The organ stabs offer a light touch, while the dense textures of the guitar skanks and cavernous drums fill the space.

This is dub reggae at its best. If you appreciate texture in sound, then you’ll be blown away by King Tubby’s genius at the mixing desk.

The song is based on “Carefree Girl”, a 1975 song by the Mighty Diamonds.

“Carefree Dub” appears on Shalom Dub, released in 1975.

03/04/2021: “Bayanyonyoba” by Senyaka

Sometimes, I hear a song like this and can’t believe how powerful it is.

The groove is just unstoppable, and it captures something really ancient. But at the same time, it seems like a forward looking, futuristic track.

The percussion, first off, is just phenomenal. The beat is a slow, easy ride, with a tasty step to it. And to augment it, a dark, brooding synth sweeps and swells like a night tide.

The vocals are also blisteringly soulful, and help to reinforce that South African house vibe.

Then the guitar! What a revelation. I don’t know whether it’s sampled, but it sucks you in like a smoky whirlpool.

The song was released on Ma-Gents in 1993, and may have languished in relative obscurity if not for a re-release in 2017.