23
Mar 02

Pitchfork Inna (Very Confused) Dancehall Stylee.

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Pitchfork Inna (Very Confused) Dancehall Stylee. First things first: Mo Wax’s Now Thing comp. (another timely Pitchfork review) is dub only in the most tangential sense: that it features (mostly) instrumental “versions” of ragga dancehall tracks. (Except, unless I’m mistaken, these are all original instrumentals which makes them not dubs at all.) The fact that the word “dancehall” doesn’t appear once throughout the course of the review is telling; in a (semi) recent essay for The Wire, Simon Reynolds discussed the process of avoidance by which hipsters can dodge having to discuss the physicalities (the roots, pardon the pun) of Jamaican music (be it reggae or dancehall) by using the red herring of the dub process. Now Thing has little to do with Lee Perry (a bit more to do with King Tubby, who produced digi-dubs of current dancehall hits until his death); it has everything to do with Prince Jammy’s “Sleng Teng” and it’s followers. In other words, closer to Elephant Man (or Ludacris for that matter) than Saint Bob. It’s not “new” at all, but part of a living, writhing tradition which James Lavelle has so graciously provided the Headz massive with an in. Avoiding the dancehall connection, the reviewer also sidesteps (is unaware of?) Now Thing‘s main weakness: no words. For a genre so bound to the word, to endless strings of almost indescipherable patois, an “instrumental dancehall” record seems a bit, well, easy. No pesky cultural connections to contend with, no gun-bitch-ho talk to cringe from. De-fanged? Maybe. A bit like if everyone started falling all over themselves for an instrumental So So Def or Cash Money LP. Oh…wait. Plus, it’s on Mo Wax.

No Doubt, in their way, are engaging with dancehall more directly than Now Thing.

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