Sometimes in dance music, you have to get a little bit experimental, off kilter and funky in order to restore some warmth to tracks, and the introduction of a little bit of vocal sample, no matter how skewed or strange, is a good way to do this. This weeks speciality focuses on the use of reggae vocals and vox samples in modern dance, and in particular bass music. Not really being an expert on the traditional, laidback reggae scene as much as I would like, though enjoying the occasional foray into piped organs, smoky vocals and off beat 'Riddims' my list instead reflects some of my passions in bass music, and as with last week, features someone who's keeping the sound very much alive in the present day.
The guttural, low down vocals stereotypical of the genre lend themselves well to a dark, menacing track but act equally well in adding energy and emotion to tracks. Although traditional harking back to Jamaican origins, and associated in particular with old school dub, I've tried to find a selection of tracks from various genres in order to really encapsulate the various ways that a little bit of reggae voice can add a little bit extra to an already notorious banger!
Zomboy - Nuclear (Hands Up)
Working from what I can only presume are samples, that range from a call for 'Hands In The Air' that never feels cheesy thanks to the menacing, low range vocals, to stuff that my 'honky ears' can't hope to disect, the vocals keep the song grooving where other drumstep appears slightly stale, and work as a riff without overpowering the song, and sit perfectly between throbs of bass and higher end squeals.
M-Beat Feat. General Levy - Incredible
This song doesn't need to really be described, anyone who knows Jungle, or any spin off since knows the importance of the epic, yet oh so simple cry of 'Wicked, Wicked, Jungle is Massive.' Doing nothing more understated than kickstarting a genre, and General Levy's wonderful, freestylesque lyrics fit so slickly over the top of the rest of the track that nothing comes close for old school style.
Pendulum Feat. DJ Fresh, Spyda & Tenor Fly - Tarantula
Whilst Pendulum may be best known for bringing Drum & Bass into the mainstream, they never forgot their roots, and Tarantula's guttural, dark vocals that work to create melody above the relentless pace of one of the slipperiest beats Rob Swire ever put his magic touch to. Often imitated, never beaten, with a dash of reggae magic the song hits you hard and teases you with it's subleties.
Skrillex Feat. Damian Marley - Bun Dem
This list wouldn't be complete without a Marley, and although Skrillex may be a contentious discussion amongst the internet's eager fingered disciples of bass, the song itself is an absolute banger.
Marley's vocals herald a rush of subwoofery, distorted goodness and
thanks to some nifty production, allow references between the traditional
sounding builds and the monstrous drops.
The Prodigy - Out Of Space
Another song from back in the 90s, sampling from Max Romeo's I Chase The Devil, the song is still arguably the band's biggest hit and blends the high pitched sounds of a rave record, with all it's manic energy and fizz, with a much more laidback vocal in a meeting that souldn't work but really appeals. Thanks to both Liam Howlett's production and the careful handling of the original, the song still holds it own 20 years on.
Chase & Status - Duppy Man
Although Drum & Bass seems to feature rather strongly in this list, in part down to my personal music tastes, Duppy Man features a song that rather than drawing on reggae influences, appears to have been constructed around the powerful vocals of Capleton and provide the perfect combination of dancehall meeting modern bass music, and even today remains a staple of any basshead's collection.
A Special Mention - Rusko
Rusko, hailed as one of the true developers, if not founders, of the dubstep sound, used his most recent full length album Songs as a homage to the roots of Dub, in a similar way to Danny Byrd and 90's rave last week. Although not perfect, with some critics claiming that he had strayed too far from the roots of the genre, the album, at least to my ears, appears to combine heavy wobbley bass lines with skank and groove, and of course plenty of reggae vocals and samples. From introductory track Year 3000, which features extensive references to traditional dancehall vocals, to all consuming stompers such as Skanker and Roll Da Beats, there are plenty of references both through voice and instrumentation to a classic scene. Standing out for me as a true reflection is Love No More, which uses skanky guitars and softly sung vox over a sub bass, alongside a plethora of beats and whistles to create a properly modern, dub tune.