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Album: The Call From Below

Label: Digitalis

Review date: Sep. 12, 2012

The Call From Below is the most fascinating, frustrating dub record I’ve heard since Pole began transmitting from his Berlin bunker well over a decade ago.

Rescued from obscurity by Digitalis’ Brad Rose, this first album by shady sound system SEEKERSINTERNATIONAL — originally released in 2011 — presents dub dissolved to a sticky, color-faded slurry. The sounds drip and run like fresh paint on boards mistakenly left to soak in a storm. This is dub with the bottom removed, leaving mainly echo and crackle, as if its producers built the sounds from sun-warped LPs filtered through single channels of thrift store electronics. Fittingly, the track that comes closest to reggae proper is by far the album’s shortest — the 75-second dancehall pump of “LargeItUp (version 2).”

Elsewhere, when beats do come into play, such as on opener “TouchRiddim,” they drop with the rhythmic equivalent of a heckle, teasing the listener with their monochromatic intensity. Conventional beats are dissed entirely in favor of choked circles of reverb, hovering vocal samples and chords, which appear, dissolve and vanish like elements of a landscape glimpsed through a heavy fog.

Yet, in SEEKERSINTERNATIONAL’s re-imagining of dub as ambient squall, they have created a sound which fuses reggae with contemporary ennui in a way more emotionally vibrant than the dub-techno masses. Where others aim to architecturalize dub, washing it with a sterilized modernity, A Call From Below is the licking smoke and noxious fumes of Black Ark Studios as it roasted to ash, an avant-garde tape loop symphony of the destroyed.

By Ethan Covey

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