Scientist — Meets the Space Invaders (1981, Greensleeves; 2016 reissue, Dub Mir)
Spoiler alert: it’s safe to say that Hopeton Overton Brown aka Scientist wins the day and sends those blasted space invaders back the arcade they came from. From the opening rubber band bass on “Beam Down” Scientist’s 1981 classic is virtually untouchable. A protege of King Tubby, Scientist manages to fully come into his own on this long playing record. Drawing source material from some of the best known Linval Thompson productions, Scientist’s dubs are flanged fearlessly, rich in reverb, doused in delay, and slathered in soul. Dubber than dub, this. Ghostly, down-tempo reggae with bass red-lining in the mix. Brown played a huge part in helping to set the stage for the remix culture that would first take root later in the decade. The dub version first crafted by King Tubby and later perfected by Scientist, demonstrate a unique understanding of how to utilize the studio as more than simply a documentary device, instead focusing it as a creative tool which helps to carve out something completely new. Canonical to the nth degree, Meets the Space Invaders, is compulsory listening.
Holger Czukay – On the Way to the Peak of Normal (1981, Electrola; 2013 reissue, Grönland)
Listen [partial playlist of the album on youtube]
More restrained and less bizarre than Czukay’s 1979 Movies, 1981’s On the Way to the Peak of Normal feels like the lost alternate soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train. If Movies was a carnivalesque appraisal of rock music, On the Way is an acid trip, wondering through the vacant lot where the big top has just up sticks. Side A kicks off with the brooding title track, which grooves and moves like a a tune culled from the Suzuki-era Can catalogue, featuring an amalgam of distant horns and whistling oscillations. “Witches Multiplication Table,” a tune penned by producer extraordinaire Conny Plank, no less, keeps the creeps going. Had Count Dracula ever been chronicled in a film by Sergio Leone, I’d expect to hear the brief and enigmatic “Two Bass Shuffle,” as the accompanying score. Public Image Ltd.’s low-end agitator Jah Wobble assumes bass duties with Czukay on drums, not your Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor bullshit by a long shot. Side A is thematically consistent and it’s rather easy to lose yourself in Czukay’s grooves and off-kilter sonic motifs. The flip side, is arguably one of the greatest tunes of all time, the sultry “Ode to Perfume.” An 18 psych-kosmiche slow-burning come down. This is Sgt. Pepper’s, if the Beatles had come from Mars. Imbued with a near operatic sense of grandeur, yet ultimately retaining a sense of intrigue and risk, the track manages to be that rare feat, a work which is both sexy and artistically engrossing at once. Dark and spooky vibes permeate this release, but not in an unsettling way: it’s the end of the night, your head is swimming, and you want to fall asleep, but can’t. This record is playing square in the middle of that head space.