Earthspin Recordings is a record label home to intense grime sounds and some of the genre’s more introspective palettes. The imprint popped up in 2020 alongside a couple of other new record labels – namely Street Frequency Music and 1000Doors – that ignored trends and focused on building a fanbase from the ground up, releasing high-quality grime music on an independent basis. Earthspin’s latest release “Pure Vibes” brings together the label’s core unit – Dullah Beatz, JT The Goon and Kenny Davis – the three contributing two tracks to an EP where grime combines with dub and reggae for a slick, electronic mix of the three genres.
Dub emerged as a sub-genre of reggae in the late sixties, gaining more popularity as producers started to release full-length albums throughout the seventies. Pioneered by King Tubby, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Joe Gibbs and Prince Buster; they initially used the rhythms from reggae tracks, manipulating the drum and bass sections in the studio with echo, reverb and other mixing desk effects. As dub began to evolve, so did the creative process. Creation Rebel’s “Starship Africa” had Style Scott play the drums over the albums original tapes as the tapes played backwards through the mixing desk; while Adrian Sherwood overdubbed the sounds of various percussionists.
While dancehall, UK Garage, jungle and hip-hop from the US are grime’s most immediate influences; dub and reggae undoubtedly play a part. Soundsystems are the home of dub and grime, and the idea of having a vocal reggae track and a dub version on each side of a record isn’t far away from how a grime artist might choose to release music. The toasting style used by deejays has been built upon by various generations of underground music, eventually becoming the grime form we know today.
Rhythm underpins dub music. Take tracks like ‘Irie Riddim’ and ‘Soul Food’, which use bellowing organ samples and staccato guitar chords as their foundations. Kenny Davis and Dullah Beatz manipulate these elements with echo and reverb, affecting the senses with a precise groove like the most watertight dub rhythms. Bass weight is key to both grime and dub, and on ‘Irie Riddim’ a distorted bassline cuts through the rhythm; while Dullah Beatz amps up ‘Soul Food’ with gravelly bass, delayed motifs, and his signature production tag. JT The Goon – a beatmaker known for taking his instrumentals into an otherworldly territory – leans into his personal style on “Pure Vibes” more than most. Meticulous percussion and precise stabs give ‘Stages Of Time’ a continuous rhythm, but the appeal comes from the deep synth riffs as they phase in and out of the track like amorphous matter. It’s classic JT remixed and reformed into a dubwise context.
‘Buds Garden’ is packed with rhythm, while ‘Sound Di Big Ting’ carries a bass line primed to make any room shake. But the success of “Pure Vibes” hinges on the delicate balancing act of the two genres it seeks to combine. The tracks on the EP, with their strong sense of rhythm and effects-laden samples, are firmly rooted in dub. But Dullah Beatz, Kenny Davis and JT The Goon leave enough space for the grimier elements, meaning that the instrumentals they’ve crafted wouldn’t sound out of place on a radio set or in a rave. Grime is music to make you dance, with or without an emcee, and “Pure Vibes” is a dynamic combination of two genres that provide an unlimited emanation when at their best.
Album artwork by OnBeat Media & Kenny Davis
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