Death By Dub, a conglomerate of major music industry players, defines the cycle of reincarnation in their latest Resurrection EP. Within four songs (and a bonus fifth instrumental), Death By Dub explores the woeful sadness, yet anticipatory hope that death — and whatever happens thereafter — embodies. The unknown, the Big Sleep… one of mortals’ greatest philosophical perplexities.
Fear and acceptance — Death By Dub decides the act of dying is a dance of both.
A dance wrapped in dub, of course. Project frontman Dan Africano (of Ghost Light and, formerly, SUNDUB) is joined by trombonist Scott Flynn (of Odesza), as well as a myriad of heavy-hitters from bands like Thievery Corporation, John Brown’s Body, The Motet and more. With such an all star lineup, you know it’s going to be good!
The EP’s lead single “Kibosh” is positioned at the top of the album, previously released back in late August. ‘Kibosh’ might mean something else in today’s vernacular, but it once represented the hood worn by a prisoner before being led to execution back in ancient Ireland days. A death march is certainly not the time to start tapping one’s foot to an upbeat tune, yet Death By Dub’s introductory instrumental single does exactly that. Conflicting emotion builds as a result, amplified by the somber harmonies of a muted trombone and tenor sax; do you stand terrified of death or do you embrace it with overwhelming curiosity? The mutes used by the horn section — drawing out, note by note, a parting soliloquy — not only reflect those utilized in traditional New Orleans funeral marches, yet further act as a metaphor to death’s unapologetic design. Your opinion of it will always be silenced.
Once death overtakes you, the cycle of rebirth begins.
It doesn’t happen instantly… even Jesus took three days. In order to regain life, you must first fuse with the nothingness. Purgatory, religious folks might call it. Enter “Milk Dub” to guide you through the void. Death By Dub’s bass-heavy “Milk Dub” draws the horn notes out even more than the previous track, evoking the feeling of losing all corporeal form and just… floating. As time and space slips by, the recently deceased must now make peace with death in order to move on. Death By Dub achieves this audibly through a tonality change halfway through the track, shifting from dismal and downcast to uplifting and curious. Turns out this song actually stems from a reprise of an older song Africano used to play with his Boston friends over a decade ago — talk about musical resurrection.
The third track of the EP, “Special Request”, shifts in a few ways. First, it has lyrics. Elliot Martin (of John Brown’s Body) joins the Death By Dub boys to verbally transcribe the transition from nothingness to, well, something-ness. “Don’t wanna be a prisoner,” Martin chants, carving a pathway through the (presumed) ethereal elements that encompass the act of reincarnation. Whatever they may be. Probably fire. Water. All the elements of matter. Light. Second, “Special Request” has a much faster tempo, implying a cathartic manifestation is ramping up. And, when in darkness, there is light. The last original track “Simulation” brings deliverance and an end to Death By Dub’s metaphysical journey. A positive timbre is rendered from exploratory horns, a playful flying cymbal beat and a booming walking bass, courtesy of the legendary Val Douglas. Now, to have it start all over again — such is life.
Of course, Death By Dub doesn’t want to leave you hanging. With all the other songs on the EP instrumental, the band include’s an instrumental version of “Special Request” to round it all out. Resurrection is now available on all digital outlets via Color Red.
Purchase or stream ‘Resurrection’ EP:
- Milk Dub
- Special Request, feat. Elliot Martin
- Special Request (instrumental)
Cover photo by Leah Concialdi
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.