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The Embassadors - Coptic Dub

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Artist: The Embassadors

Album: Coptic Dub

Label: Nonplace

Review date: Dec. 9, 2009


The Embassadors - "Sierra Alone" (Coptic Dub)


A collaborative effort helmed by Hayden Chisholm and Burnt Friedman, the Embassadors’ Coptic Dub offers an eloquent sense of mystery and imagination that goes deeper than what is typically called dub these days. Composer/reed player/ organist Chisholm began the process documented here by recording the melodic and rhythmic interplay of his jazz combo – himself, along with the loping, shifting, riverine flow achieved by acoustic bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jochen Rueckert, along with textured electric guitar accents and embellishments from Bruno Mueller and Robert Nacken. Most of the consonant, cyclical melodies and patterns tend toward a redolence of Ethio-jazz and South African township jazz.

Often recorded with extreme up-close clarity, this basic material at times evinces an unsettling, yet alluring, lack of background or spaciousness, with timbre – breath through reeds; fingers on wood and strings; the moody drone of B-3 organ – standing in for the sonic space of reverb or room sound.

These initial recordings were, according to the liner notes by Chisholm, given over to Friedman for sculpting and processing. Friedman’s additions and subtractions of instruments, effects and textures are artful and evocative. He seems never to repeat an idea, and the altogether effect is one of almost subliminal surprise.

The one track that seems overtly influenced by the expanses of Jamaican dub – “Albino Maori Dub” – draws decidedly from the stark minimalism of King Tubby and his protégé Scientist rather than from the extroverted intensity of Lee Perry. Rolling and echoing around and under a dark, minor-key progression, the subtlety of the dub and processing here allows for – and enhances – the rhythmic conversation among the instruments, making for some disarming shifts, along with the gathering storm clouds of arresting breakdowns that never quite happen.

Indeed, what makes Coptic Dub so interesting are those strange moments disconnected from, yet inevitably shaped by, what just happened and what is about to follow.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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