Restored 30 May 2017, originally published 22 October 2014
One of my favorite revelations when I first started exploring netlabels several years ago was the general high quality of reggae that could be found. Over time it also became evident that the global community of reggae netlabels, artists and fans is particularly close and supportive of each other’s efforts. Two of the best netlabels at delivering consistent quality music are Dubophonic and Dubkey. Perhaps the only logical result of all these elements is this co-release and co-mingling where “Dubophonic meets Dubkey.”
Appropriately titled United As One, this album features sixteen tracks of cross-pollination between the two labels and many of their artists. All the songs have been created exclusively for this release and each features one of four riddims (one each from Red Star Martyrs, Ashley, Med Dred, and Negritage). There are four songs built on each riddim, grouped together in mini-sets.
The opening foursome is probably the most diverse. We start with the cool vocals of Zion Irie singing “Run Come,” a song that features some nice interplay between horns and melodica. Haji Mike takes a very different and more serious tack with his take called “Dead Politiks.” It features spoken word lyrics and serious talk, bringing to mind the great dub poet LKJ. Track originators Red Star Martyrs then present a fairly clean version of the track, followed by a more dubbed out Jah Rootical Steppers Mix which is liberally embellished with what sounds like chiptune sounds. These four tracks are a great example of the variety of music that can be created from one starting point.
The next section features a riddim by Ashley which is a totally electronic. The opening vocal version “Dem Don’t Know Righteousness” features an interesting vocal mix featuring Zion Irie. It is followed by three dub versions that emphasize different aspect of the original and allow the producers to show their stuff.
My favorite vocal performance is “So Hungry” by Singer Tempa, which starts out the third foursome of tracks. This song also features some really nice skank guitar courtesy of Felix Dub Caravan. Med Dred’s dub take “So Hungry 4 Dub” has a bit of a haunted feel because of the way he plays with the vocals. Another of his versions, called “Roots-o-phonic,” includes a nice vocal tip-of-the-cap to the legendary Eek-A-Mouse.
To me it’s always interesting in reggae music to hear what artists do with the same musical starting point, and this album has that in abundance. If you’re a reggae or dub fan, you will enjoy exploring the nuances of this collection. The process for building these tracks is described as “lots of internet exchanges between Argentina, Cyprus, England, and Malta” and this method obviously was a success based on the results. Much respect to label heads Dub Thomas (Dubophonic) and Manwel T (Dubkey) for the idea of collaborating and, more importantly, pulling this off with such quality results.
Singer Tempa – “So Hungry”
Red Star Martyrs – “Roots Rock Rebel (Jah Rootikal Steppers Mix)”
United As One Download site