Ahhh now, ROIR tapes take me back. In my formative years nothing proved cultural saliency to the other college DJ's who were scanning the stack of tapes on your flimsy milk crate shelves like a flurry of ROIR logos. They meant you Got It. You were not just content to have Marquee Moon, you were cool enough to require their Early Years burned onto the flimsiest popular recording media ever, just to be able to get up and face the inhumanity of the cultural wasteland before you. It meant you leapt past Bob Marley's Legend and would on occasion blast some dub vibrations from that deep crevasse of the fat writhing planet where diamonds and methamphetamines come from. Sure, they sounded like crap, and yeah, they were dodgy live recordings of bands you knew you were supposed to like and you were using a $6 tape to cover you in the eyes of those who cared, if you didn't. I imagine that jazzbos get the same woody when spying a sea of orange (the tell tale spine color for the Impulse! Label) bleeding out of one's record cabinet.
It's good to see that the imprint has survived all these years and is still dedicated to the NY hardcore and dub that brought them to the dance, while abandoning the patina of 4-track hiss. Dub trio mix a healthy dose of Lee 'Scratch' Perry bass experimentation with some earnest but urbane hardcore to get to produce the intriguing record, all flawlessly recorded like a Mike Patton record, who lends his rockiest posture to "Not Alone" a track that would outshine anything else on the latest batman soundtrack , were it included. But undeniably kick-ass as it is (Mike Patton can fucking sing, Jack) its an anomaly. The real meat on the menu is found in either the Bad Brains rock-meet-reggae-now-you-two-go-play guitar theatrics of "Angels of Acceptance" and in the more angular pieces like the brilliantly titled 'Jack Bauer" following the ska tradition of penning instrumentals about action movies stars/characters. In fact I think "Jack Bauer" creates more tension in its 0:2:23 than Keifer Sutherland can do in a whole 24:00:00, unless there happens to be a drink cart in sight on the plane.
New Heavy functions like many of the great dub albums in history do, as ambience. William Gibson, in his novel "Necromancer," casts Rastafarians as long range space pilots and made much note of how the haze of weed and the persistent thud of dub kept the giant lumbering spacehips in check with the cosmic order, and I find dub when done right to do that same for me at the controls of my laptop. It propels you forward with just enough funk to keep things interesting while not veering you off task. Particularly good is the Augustus Pablo tribute "Sunny I'm Kill" replete with echo-akimbo and a siren-wail melodica (Pablo's signature instrument) cutting through it like a laser.
Personally the dubbier moments work better than the Big Rock moments, but the band trades back and forth pretty seamlessly, like on "Cool Out and Coexist" to make this a rather fun and nuanced ride. I've had a one-off project in my head: get Steve Albini in Shellac mode, Eye from the Boredoms in cosmic drummer mode and a Pelican as your rhythm section, and have them all answer to Lee Scratch Perry, dominating the mixing board and banks of tape echos to make the finest dub mess ever (guest raps from Busta Rhymes and Mark E. Smith of the Fall as well), but somehow the egos involved seem a touch insurmountable for this dream to ever come to pass, so until then, I will keep up with Dub Trio and further dispatches from the ROIR underbelly to keep my spaceship on course.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com