The smoky, ominous sound of classic dub reggae has been startling and inspiring musicians worldwide since its heyday in the '70s. Genius producers such as Lee Perry, King Tubby, Scientist and dozens of others made records that sounded like nothing else on earth. Whereas the rhythms are pure reggae, heavy bass and eerily processed melodies fade in and out with a maximum of studio trickery and invention. Shards of vocals and sound effects pop up at weird angles. Artists from the Clash to the Beastie Boys to Massive Attack have drawn on dub's dense atmosphere and off-kilter dynamics, and its influence on electronica and hip-hop in particular cannot be overstated.The music's studio-bound nature serves this dub diaspora: It doesn't take much to put together your own dub tracks. Most at-home dub producers probably spend more money on, uh, herbal enhancements than they do on studio equipment. Unfortunately, it's not easy to capture the creepy sound of '70s Jamaica in a Midwestern living room, and most DIY dub projects never get too far out of the house. This is exactly why the music of the Dub Kitchen collective is so striking: These young St. Louisans get it dead right, assembling cuts that are both authentic and inventive. The basslines are solid and interesting, and miscellaneous melody instruments provide surprises around every corner. Effects are used intelligently and timed perfectly. In a classic dub gambit, Beethoven's "Für Elise" is transformed into a lovely, loping reggae number.
Not that you would have ever heard any of this. The people behind the Dub Kitchen have chosen, so far, to remain mysterious, known only to a small circle of allies and acquaintances. Rejoice, then, at the higher profile that their gig at Duff's seems to portend. Best-kept secrets this good don't stay secret for long. Have a smoke, go check them out and pester them to release a CD. Dub Kitchen deserves to add its paragraph to the long story of this great, great musical style.
Although not in any way dub-related, Fred's Variety Group and Languid are also on the bill, making this show yet another interesting high-quality entry in the Duff's concert series.