When I’m checking out some music for the first time I tend to leave it alone at least for the first listen. I mean, I read no press notes, neither bio or back story. I like to keep it surprising and intriguing and let the music find its way through me first, then try to help it out by digging deeper into a concept that may have been distributed along with the music to enhance the experience. That’s why when the opener of S.Q.E.’s 5+4, “Nwot Ytinav’ed”, started playing through my speakers, I said to myself, “Oh shit, Silken Tofu’s gone dub!”.
I instantly forgot the somewhat puzzling designer choice for the front panel of the otherwise nicely approached minimalist, black artwork (I had harsher words, but I guess dub makes me really mellow) and let the music itself do its thing. I’m sure everybody who’s spent some time actually listening to music and not trying to fit in with certain scene stereotypes is aware that much of what we’re enjoying now in contemporary electronic music has come from dub. The repetitiveness, the effects and processing, the whole free-form approach to reworking pieces by accentuating certain elements, textures, phrases–that’s all the work of the dub shamans. For those already furrowing their eyebrows at those statements, I’d recommend that you go and check out “Dub Echoes” if you haven’t yet. It’s a rad documentary that will explain to you exactly what I’m talking about.
However, 5+4 does not so easily filter down into a simplistic genre specification. Yes, that heavy and ritualistic dub foundation is there, but above the fat bass lines and straight-forward beats you’ll find a lot of crazy and avant-garde orchestration. J. Greco Pasquale, the mastermind behind S.Q.E., has jumped into the habit of performing with instruments that are not so common from the roots of the genre. This gem of an album has grown from classic dub (even carrying a ska tensity here and there) to find itself perfectly enriched by horns, viola and all kinds of experimental details, such as microsounds, distant speech samples, field recordings and whatever electro-acoustic elements and effects he has hidden in his pockets.
At certain points, 5+4 reaches an almost free-jazz peak as the album tempo jumps from nervous and energetic to slow and loungy, especially on the calmer pieces over which Tracy Jeffery has laid down a wonderful and spacey vocal performance.
That makes the record a pretty tense and varying listen. 5+4 is full of ideas, melodies, subtle field recordings and soundscapes, and it definitely takes you on a crazy ride in the strangest, most chaotic, avant-garde and sometimes slightly dissonant side of dub–a style of dub that you might have never heard before until this release. You’ll hardly find yourself whistling any tunes from the album; 5+4 is surely not written to be catchy or in line with pop aesthetics, and perhaps I consider that a minor downside. But seriously, a post-industrial label released this? Are you kidding me? That’s great!
01) A Personal Greeting
03) Sour Grapes
04) Black Me Out (Ska)
05) Shards (Dub)
06) Darker Globe (Dub)
07) Would You Be My Widow?
08) Narcotic Haze
09) Dub Chills The Air At Night
10) Vengeful Parasite