Lee "Scratch" Perry - Arkology
- Island - 1997
May 7, 1998
Bob Marley fanatics should be familiar with an early, slow ska of his called "Duppy Conquerer", a brash slice of skanking braggadocio. In Jamacian patios, "dup" is ghost; Marley is talking trash, taunting the bad spirits of the netherworld. Corrupted a bit, this is where the genre called dub gets its name.
Fittingly, dub is a mystical fusion of spirit and technology, a twisted version of reggae that was developed mainly by the man showcased here. Lee "Scratch" Perry is a bona fide madman, a producer who covered every inch of his studio ("Black Ark") with crazed writings before burning it to the ground. But before the immolation, Black Ark was the proving ground for nearly every reggae band of consequence, as well as being a mecca for punk bands who fell in love with the political fire of reggae music. The Clash, Marley, The Heptones, and Perry's own band The Upsetters all recorded here.
Dub is a producer's music. After cutting a record, Perry would record a dub for the flip side, eliminating the vocals, boosting the already thundering bass, adding reverbed vocal samples, compressing horns and detonating echo effects. It's jungle psychedelia, and no one did it better than Perry.
This 3 CD box set is a perfect introduction to the mad genius' work. Adventurous and deeply sexy, Perrry's dubs are narcotic and wildly experimental. Included are key tracks by Errol Walker and other obscure artists, who Perry saw fit to seriously mess with. Most tracks appear in their normal version first; this alone would make the collection an outstanding document of carnal rock steady, but the dubs take those songs to another level entirely.
Soaked in rum, anointed with ganja and left to bake in the fierce Jamaican sun, Perry twists the tunes beyond recognition with phantom sounds and hallucinatory imagery. That he did this with a mere four-track is astounding. Even ignoring the technical prowess, this music stands light years ahead of its time, as modern bands like Tortoise and Mad Professor are just beginning to tap into Perry's innovative style. This is the voice of the netherworld, rich and dense beyond belief - a darkly beautiful, profoundly evocative collection that is steeped in earthy passion while keeping a close ear to the lunatic fringe.
- Jared O'Connor