Echoes and Sirens
SWITZERLAND Aussenraum AR-LP-011 LP/DL (2018)
This duo of Laurent Peter - aka d’incise - and Cyril Bondi break new ground in their pursuit of an amalgam of improvisation and modern composition, or as the sleevenotes put it; “…a possible relation between dub and experimental music.” Echoes and Sirens is their third approach to said amalgam given a release after Augustus and Great Stone/Blood Dunza. The task Diatribes have given themselves is to dissolve a healthy enthusiasm for dub reggae in a solution of sound production techniques before passing through a filter of extended-technique electro-acoustic improvisation. Echoes and Sirens is a substantial piece of work. Where on the previous records they have worked as a duo, here they employ more firepower; as well as adding Raphael Ortis on electric bass, they exploit a real horn section; Pierre-Antoine Badaroux on alto saxophone, Bertrand Denzler on tenor saxophone, Louis Lourain on trumpet and Fidel Fourneyron on trombone to great effect.
Aussenraum choose to describe what lies within these grooves in negative; “…It’s definitely not dub music, nor a dub version of experimental music, it’s not remixes nor a figurative soundscape…” More like a silhouette. There are flashes of the source subject; reminders or reflections of the original genre. The sleevenotes cite the “aura” of London-based sound system operator Jah Shaka in particular as the inspiration for these pieces. Shaka makes his own productions, most notably his Commandments of Dub series from which The Ragga Twins famously pulled a sample for their pristine 18” Speaker in 1991. Diatribes may have borrowed the title of the first piece on Echoes and Sirens from Hugh Mundell’s Jah Fire Will Be Burning; a track Shaka has versioned. Furthermore, the music is described as “Highly detailed textures, repeated gestures, soft tones, febrile pulses and acoustic hyper-sensibility”. The album is presented as “Four imaginary moments of a sound system night” with the addition of “…found field recordings of Shaka’s parties and interactions with the crowd…”
The first piece is “Dub Fire Will Be Burning”. Stretched perception. Long-held harmony tones from the horn section; circa 44 hertz sine tones for a bassline, lo-fi shouts and cheers from the recordings of the parties, reverb-spring hits reverbed in turn, live rim-shots sporadically placed; a deliberate chord progression. This is followed by “Tell Me, What Do You See?” The hi-hat is used as the spine of this piece. Shaka’s trademark siren makes its first appearance. The sound of a vintage keyboard – possibly a Phillicorda? – is employed, and long echoes. The horn section play a slow suave chord progression, the bass guitar stays minimal. A flip from hi-hat to rim-shot and tambourine changes the mood to urgent; the horns become more strident.
Flipping the record over, “Don’t Trouble I (oh no)”, - the title possibly a reference to Johnny Clarke’s Don’t Trouble Trouble; an artist who has also worked with Jah Shaka - has an air of Minimalism about it. Relentless repetition. Bass and drums distilled down deep; forget about finding the One – this ain’t One Drop – this is No Drop. The final piece, “Continually”, features the instantly recognisable vocal melody by Aisha – “The First Lady of Dub” no less - on Fast Forward Into Dub by Mad Professor, which you will be familiar with from Blue Room by The Orb. Through endless repetition, Diatribes wring every last morsel of meaning out of it; a simulated locked groove.
All four pieces hover between 10 and 11 minutes each, giving a nicely four-square feel to the album.
What is common with all of Diatribes’ work is the care with which they select their sounds; often complementing percussion sounds with electronic noises of similar timbre to great effect. They select carefully with the skill and experience of a Michelin-starred chef choosing ingredients. The idea in use here is a good one and produces four radically different pieces. Could Diatribes be moving experimental music on a couple of steps here? I like to think so. Highly recommended.