Now this is where radical Jewish culture gets radical. David "Solid" Gould is the bassist in the popular New York ska band John Brown's Body. According to the (always) sketchy Tzadik liner notes, he has long been fascinated with the spiritual relationship between deep roots, dub reggae, and Judaism. In 2000 he released the album Adonai on the tiny I-Town label; it was a collection of the same prayers used here, with prominent vocals and song forms that serve as the models for these dub versions. Here, Gould -- with dub remixer Jamie Saft -- has taken these gorgeous Hebrew prayers and melodies backed by a reggae rhythm section and thrown them into a ghostly apparition of Lee Perry's Black Ark studio. Voices slip through the mix, chanting in deep Hebrew cantorial accents; guitars, Hammond B-3s, pianos, percussion, and horns slip in and out of the mix like spirits that are swallowed into a huge cauldron of echo, distortion, and skeletal yet bubbly rhythms. Time and space begin to slide away during the middle of "Hinei Ma Tov Dub," where a deep-throated cantor is swallowed whole by the swirling rhythm and string extensions that stretch his voice all the way back to the Sinai Desert and Moses as it meets I-Roy in '70s Jamaica. On "Leha Dodi Dub," the rhythms are chunked up and become almost funky before Saft starts to take apart what is driving them and creates split loops out of the guitar lines and pastes them up against the horns before the rhythm finally rises, victorious. There are dub noisescapes that would be industrial were it not for their traditional Hebrew melodies that waft throughout the big, pumping basses and distorted-beyond-all-reason percussion ("Adonai Noise Dub"). The vocals of Amy Glicklich are present on the last three tracks, enhanced from their original contexts on Adonai and I, but here, especially on "V'nemar Dybbuk Dub," they provide a heart of silence amid the effect-laden proceedings, and as the older melodies creep in behind her over six minutes, the boundaried walls of history begin to come down. And it should be added that these aren't just digital dub takes of the originals; these are reconstructed versions that take great liberties with melody, harmony, and especially rhythm in order to create the bridge Gould seeks so desperately. By the time "Yigdal Dub" whispers to a close with its Yiddish melody that moves against an Ennio Morricone-like meter scheme, a ska rhythm backdrop, and Glicklich's ethereal vocal, that bridge, however tenuously constructed, stands even if only as an apparition for a few moments after the disc ends. But in and of itself, that is quite an achievement. Tzadik just keeps the good stuff coming. For those interested in the original Adonai and I, visit www.itownrecords.com, which features full Hebrew texts and translations, bonus tracks, and producer's mixes.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek