Sunday, October 7, 2007

Album Review: The Drastics - Waiting

If you’re not familiar with The Drastics, you’re missing out on one of the finest dub bands in the country. Not only do they play dub, they bring it to you live and direct on stage, mixing elements of jazz, afro-beat, dancehall, and a multitude of worldly influences. Due to the nature of the improvisation that comes with live dub music, no two sets are alike. However, you can be sure to hear some hard dubs mixed right in front of your eyes, possibly some guest vocalists, and always killer tunes.

If you are familiar with The Drastics, you’ll be happy to learn they’ve just released their newest album Waiting on Jump Up Records. Straight on the heels of their ambitious double album Chicago Massive, Chicago’s dubmeisters are at it again with another batch of tight, experimental reggae. While 2006’s Chicago Massive saw The Drastics experimenting in concept and scope (one disc of instrumentals, another with 12 unique vocalists over versions of the same instrumentals - for a combined output of 27 tracks and 24 guest musicians), this year’s Waiting sees them experimenting further in style.

One of the first things that jumped out at me when I played this album, and also the last time I saw them live, was the standout role the lead guitar has taken in a number of the tunes. The rhythm section is probably the tightest they’ve ever been, dropping the fire that allows the lead guitar, keys, sax, trombone, flute, melodica, and kitchen sink to burn up your speakers. Binghi drums also run rampant on the album, most notably on the tracks Trapezoid and Redlight. And for those who need vocals in their dub, don’t fret – both Fada Dougou and Zulu reappear this time around for a couple of scorchers! Zulu brings a smooth, deep vocal delivery to Redlight, accented by some excellent backing harmonies. Fada sing-jays on the upbeat Good Time Tonight, and also lends his voice to the wickedest track on the album, a heavy, heavy dub called Das Krampus.

Only two listens through, Waiting is already my favorite Drastics album. But no recording does this band justice on its own, until you’ve seen a live show for the full experience. If you’re in Chicago hit up a show. If you’re elsewhere, hit up either or

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