Rhythm & Sound
[Asphodel, 2003]

rhythm and sound with the artists coverRhythm & Sound is the shared “nom de dub” of two Berliners who deal primarily in electronics, and who have released a twinned set of low-impact reggae CDs. Let’s give a listen, starting with with the artists:

A deep, solid heartbeat establishes a timeless rhythm, focused and brought to the fore by a regular, sharp crack, the intrusion of the here and now. Sam Cooke’s beautiful voice (actually Cornel Campbell’s) emits earthly moans; the moans become words. “I’m the king, I sit on my own throne, I sit in my empire, so you can’t push I over.” Minimal, subdued accompaniment with echoes and repeated disappearing piano-like chords. A quote from “He’s Got the Whole World,” a pull into dubbier territory, a peaceful exit.

The same satisfying heartbeat then returns for another six minutes, with a bit more going on. Seems heavier. Same melody, almost the same words, but a different voice (Jennifer Lara’s), less subdued and just as powerful. “I’m the queen, I sit on my own throne.” Track three: over great washes of electricity and a new heartbeat, the affirmation “Jah rules over all” is intoned by Paul St. Hilaire, a voice at once immediate and distant, the earth forming around us through a billion-year-old elemental swirl of sound.

Vocalist Shalom brings us again into the jangly present. “We been trodding for so long…suffering for too long,” he chants, his Old Testament themes leading us deeper into the realms of dub. Over a shuffling nyahbingi heartbeat, The Chosen Brothers then deliver a calm diatribe against Babylon. In “Music Hit You,” a complex, convoluted rhythm takes a few interesting moments to organize itself, and when it does, Jah Batta enlightens us about the power of music, a relief from the preceding heaviness of theme. The next is a jolt, though, as singer “Love Joy” starts bemoaning her lot: “it was my best friend and my lover that I saw together last night.” Such a human concern seems petty at this point, abetted by a rhythm that’s now been reduced to its simplest form. Finally, on “Making History,” a return: to the alluring harmonies of The Chosen Brothers, to bigger subjects (ruling the world, the final judgement), and to thick elemental swashes of sound.

rhythm and sound versions cd coverOkay, it’s time to visit the companion disk, the versions. As usual with dub, the musical elements of the originals have here been reduced to their basics. But the first CD was already comprised largely of dub effects, so when you dub a dub, what’s left? In this case, not much. “We Been”, for example, is completely devoid of voices and almost devoid of variation. “Mash Down”, admittedly, has that complex nyahbingi beat and some vocal slices to partially redeem it, but on balance, this double-dub is distressingly low-key. Not that I dislike it intensely; how can you dislike something that’s barely there? So let’s just say King Tubby this ain’t.

In conclusion, a recommendation: get the first half of this twin set and be content.

Purchase CD on Amazon.com.