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Ruts DC - Rhythm Collision Reloaded

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Artist: Ruts DC

Album: Rhythm Collision Reloaded

Label: Echo Beach

Review date: Mar. 19, 2010

Thirty-plus years after the initial excursions, the idea of a live band “playing” dub music still seems dubious. The point of dub is to remove the band from the process and let the man behind the mixing board create headspace. Even bands like Terrorists that were really good at it lost much of the pure studio heaviness. The Ruts were always a better punk band than a reggae band, and after Malcolm Owen died in 1980 and the band rechristened itself Ruts DC, they never came close to hitting the earlier rock highs, which in turn took much of the bite out of the Jamaican-influenced tracks.

However, Ruts DC’s Rhythm Collision Vol. 1, from 1982, remains a great listen, mostly because the band almost entirely gave themselves over to the whims of Mad Professor. His work at the time, particularly with Ranking Ann and Jah Shaka, shows that the man was on some otherworldly dub tip and could basically do no wrong. Throughout the album, the scratch guitar and trebly bass sound clue the listener in to the fact that Ruts were still a rock band, and occasional rock beats form, but other than those basic signifiers, everything is completely subsumed within Mad Professor’s claustrophobic outer space aesthetic.

The biggest mistake the remixers make on Rhythm Collision Reloaded is to try to strike a balance between Ruts DC’s rock instincts, Mad Professor’s dub, and their own individual production styles. The result is an overproduced jumble that does no one any favors. Out of the 13 tracks, five are given over to Rob Smith, a.k.a. RSD. RSD has done some great work on the Punch Drunk and Tectonic labels, but here he abandons his gloomy digital dub and focuses on beefing up the live instruments, which gives the tracks a cheesy “live drum” feel. Dreadzone, Salz and Boz Boorer unfortunately try the same thing, and the results just sound like bloated takes on Mad Professor’s lean and stark originals.

The only remixer that seems to understand why the original album works is Go Home Productions. His take on “Love and Fire” isn’t mindblowing, but he lets the track focus on space by really isolating the acoustic sounds and allowing the echo to fill in the gaps. It’s a pure throwback, but a great lesson for modern dub-influenced artists and producers: this stuff only works if you give it some breathing room.

By Brad LaBonte

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