Lee "Scratch" Perry

Sound System Scratch: Lee Perry's Dub Plate Mixes 1973 to 1979

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Those who are at all familiar with the production style of Lee "Scratch" Perry will know that it's best to expect the unexpected. At any given moment, you may hear a creaking door, a flushing toilet, a lyric about Kentucky Fried Chicken, or the importance of proper bathing practices, or (perhaps weirdest of all) the lowing of the famous Cow of the Black Ark. However, even by Perry's usual bizarre standards, the dub plates and sound system specials brought together in this compilation are seriously out there. Some of the "rhythms" (or basic instrumental tracks) will be familiar to longstanding fans of the Black Ark: there are several cuts on the "Dreadlocks in Moonlight" rhythm (one of them appears to be a previously unreleased vocal version), a super-rare dub version of Junior Murvin's "Roots Train Number One," and alternate mixes of "Bushweed Corntrash," "Dub Organiser," and "Groovy Situation." But the 70-minute program includes some serious obscurities as well, and some of them are downright frightening: "Groove Dubber" and "Groove Rider" are both built on a starkly minimalist one-chord rhythm whose insistent repetitiveness and creepy analog drum-machine sound anticipate the earliest digital dancehall reggae grooves by a good ten years; "From Dub Four," a dub cut on a Clive Hylton song that may or may not have originally been "Judgement Day," is so weirdly muffled and drastically dubbed-up that it is genuinely scary to listen to. (And it's not clear how much of the sonic weirdness stems from deliberate production choices and how much comes from the low quality of the source tape; this being a Pressure Sounds release, every effort has been made to clean up the sound, but the ultimate deciding factor for inclusion is musical quality, not sound quality.) This is not easy listening music, and even established fans of vintage roots reggae are likely to find it challenging; however, for Scratch's worldwide cult, this disc is something very much like the Holy Grail: a generous collection of never-before-heard material from the Black Ark studio, truly the Holy of Holies when it comes to experimental dub.

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