Published Aug 17, 2010The eagerly awaited follow up to Dubmatix's Best Reggae Recording Juno this year doesn't disappoint. System Shakedown features Jesse "Dubmatix" King shaking up his songs a little bit. All his usual signifiers are here ― loads of guest stars; sweet, jazzy horns; a taste for ragga-fied breaks; and, of course, sterling dub grooves ― what's different is how it all comes together. The opening few songs have a noticeably darker tone than most of Dubmatix's work to date, even the vocal hook-ready "Wobble Weeble." A dubstep influence has crept into the music, but he never relies on an overwhelmingly wobbly and massive bass line. When Jamaica to Toronto vet Jay Douglas launches into the transcendentally soulful "Celebrate My Love," it's plain that Dubmatix hasn't discarded his love for the Channel One sound of the late '70s and early '80s. Stars like Gregory Isaacs, the Mighty Diamonds and U Brown also shine. The drawbacks on the album are a few numbers whose codas go on too long, an excessively slow track with the otherwise hype Ragga Twins and Tippa Irie track "Happy," whose lyrics are more cloying than affectionate. However, both instrumental dubs are very strong, with "Kingdom Dub" referencing Burning Spear for the album's closer.
The album is a journey. Was that your intention?
Putting together the sequencing was a challenge, as I originally had more of the roots tracks further forward. After having my pop [jazz impresario Bill King] take a listen, he sent over his sequencing suggestion and the idea was to place some of the newer material upfront to take the listener on a journey. It's quite an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from dark dub, electro dancehall, electro dub, drum & bass, as well as pure roots and dub.
There's a harder sound to the first half of this album and dubstep is a touchstone. What's your personal vision of dubstep?
I've been listening to dubstep more in the clubs while touring for the past few years and some of it I find too dark for my tastes, but now it's branched out into similar sub-sub-genre styles that bring in musical ideas ranging from flamenco, house, reggae, techno, world, etc. I've heard a vast and diverse amount that still seems to be expanding. For me, there are certain traits inherent in dubstep that I really like, such as integrating wobbly sub-bass, which provides a nice sense of movement and suspense heard on a couple of the songs on the album.
How do the collaborations work? Do you send collaborators tracks? Did you meet any of the people you worked with?
For most of the collaborations, I make contact and then send over generally three riddims that are in the style of the singer[s] I'm working with. For the Mighty Diamonds track, I specifically wrote the music to be tailored to their classic sound I grew up listening to. The same goes for the Gregory Isaacs track. If you listen to his '80s tunes, there is a definite style, which is the bass is generally the melody and forms the structure. "System Breakdown" follows a similar line, where the bass is the centre point, alongside his vocals.
"Lock Down," with Ammoye, gets with the electro dancehall sound that's really gained popularity. Are you planning on doing more tracks and remixes like this?
Over the past year, spending so much time touring and having the opportunity to hear what's coming out in the UK, France, Germany and what people are reacting too and been inspiring ― I decided sometime ago to start expanding my sound, which keeps it challenging and interesting. I could produce dub tracks for life, but at some point, every artist/producer needs to continue their musical journey and for me, it's these various styles and mash-ups that have me interested. But I'll always produce dub tracks, as it's the foundation and I still dig it.
What kind of remixes, bonus tracks, etc. can we expect in the coming months following this release?
I've got a lot of new projects on the go: I've been doing some work with USS [Ubiquitos Synergy Seeker], just finished up a remix for the upcoming Easy All Stars Dub Side Of the Moon remix album, a personal electro side-project called Joint Chiefs of Staff, which I'll release an EP of end of year, two pure dub albums from material that I've not released and a cool cover version of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK." Plus, whatever else I can get involved with. (7 Arts/Universal)