Far removed from the normalcy and mundaneness of urban society, the ghetto is a place which has been transformed - through time - into somewhat of a legend for disaffected communities across the world. In South Afrika, ghettoes are the bastard child of deliberate attempts by authorities of old to instil divisions within the oppressed majority - a populace which was ultimately rendered powerless in the land of their birth.
The ghetto has morphed, shape-shifted and evolved through the ages. The ghetto is, in its very essence, a paradox. The good - neighbourliness as well as the sense of community - exists in tandem with the bad - crime, filth, squalor, and abject poverty. These extremes have time and again given birth to forms of music which have gone on to influence as well as inspire entire generations; marabi, the music of Johannesburg townships in the early twenties, was the precursor to modern-day South Afrikan jazz. In other societies, similar patterns are evident: ska in the slums of Jamaica created the template on which roots reggae built upon.
(Lee Scratch Perry)
The ‘drum-and-bassline’ coalition of reggae music was then stripped into a dark, sparse, echo-driven pedantry known as x-ray music - or 'dub', which is the more common term. From the legendary compositions of Lee Scratch Perry, through to the imperfect perfections of compositions by dubmasters such as King Tubby and Scientist, the dub morphed and broke out into a global phenomenon which fed back and kick-started genres as wide-ranging as jungle, drum-and-bass, and dubstep. The dub was, is, and will always be dancehall music, soundsystem music, disaffected, dark, and seismic in its assault of the listener.
Producer Dplanet (real name Damian Stephens) best exemplifies the soundsystem culture in his compositions, which are saturated with an institution-defying blitzkrieg of two-step, bass music, and hints of grime. All these elements glide swiftly over the undertone - the foundation - of dub. Anne-Sophie Leens (aka Spo0ky), designer extraordinaire, completes this unassuming duo of creatives. 'Ghetto Dubs’ is their introduction – a re-affirmation of sorts – to the moody recesses of our minds.
According to the band’s biography, Pure Solid is an ‘intense audio-visual assault on the senses’; Spo0ky creates the visual imagery to go hand-in-hand with Dplanet’s dub manifestos; gritty songs inspired by the night sprawls undertook by the latter as a youth growing up in London, through the soundsystems he frequented (Jah Shaka, et. al) and the music being played on UK pirate radio stations (Kiss Fm, et. al) at that time.
On this, their debut digital-only release, Pure Solid carries forth the dub tradition by utilizing dubbed-out vocal chops from artists signed to their Pioneer Unit imprint. The album sees guest chops (for lack of better phrasing) from the likes of Rattex, Driemanskap, and Ben Sharpa. Their vocals are used as part of the whole, neither standing out nor getting lost in translation. The result is a musical experience that is engaging as it is ear-shuttering, especially when played loud on a good soundsystem.
Songs such as the Rendondo-assisted ‘Clik-clak’ (Redondo is from Driemanskap), ‘7784’ with Rattex (incidentally Khayalitsha’s area code, which is where Rattex is from), as well as ‘Aluta continua’ (also featuring Redondo) demonstrate Pure Solid’s affinity – as well as a daring edge – with all that is electronic, glitchy, techy, and loaded with tonnes of bass.
I run the risk of sounding like a groupie, so I shall stop here and recommend that you head over to the Pioneer Unit store to either stream and/or buy the product. Oh, and as a side-note, Ben Sharpa is recording his vocals for 4DLS, another project with Dplanet, Spo0ky and DJ Raiko. For the next two days, you can check out Pioneer Unit’s Ustream channel to witness the recording; I’ve done it, it’s fun to be made to feel as though one is part of the process. Follow them on twitter (@pioneerunit) for the broadcast times.