Dr Das :: Emergency Basslines
The past 12 months have seen electronic beats creep into the consciousness of the average radio listener in the unlikeliest of forms. Commercially and critically, releases by Justin Timberlake, Thom Yorke and The Knife all received much love and will likely be on most year-end lists (indie or otherwise), including this writer's. Of those three artists, only Swedish duo The Knife - whose magnificently haunting Silent Shout showed us just how versatile them Scandinavians are at techno - are veterans of the dance scene. Super producer Timbaland took the croonings of an ex-boy band leader and churned out an exquisitely produced club-funk album that screams for dance floor attention while Thom Yorke's The Eraser was Radiohead melancholia cocooned in IDM. Sampling and synths were everywhere on the charts this year, hell, even Robbie "Take That" Williams decided to go all techno on us!
Electronics also play a heavy role in Dr. Das's new venture, Emergency Basslines. While not as far removed from the dance scene as the artists mentioned above, as Das achieved fame and following as Asian Dub Foundation's bassist, his major influences are clearly the dub-wise sounds of Lee "Scratch" Perry and Adrian Sherwood's On-U label. Dub, being a largely instrumental genre, always meshed well with electronica (dubtronica?) but largely grew out of Jamaica's ska and reggae sub-culture. It is in this context, that we are privy to Emergency Basslines. Produced by Das and longtime collaborator Ramjac, who like all producers of great albums deserves much of the credit here, the album is experimental in its scope and banging in its deliverance.
It opens with the skittering beats of "Emergency Bass", a nice little mid-tempo intro that soon leads into "Kosmic Prankster". A wicked tumbi loop and Das's driving bass are run through electronic noises - an obvious candidate for a single release, if there is one. Arabic and Indian percussion loops form the spine of "The Alchemist" and "Free Agent" respectively, each lining up digital noises and effects toe-to-toe with Das's heavy, militant basslines. "Frontline Party" could be an instrumental out-take from Visionary Underground's (VU) Keep The Grime On, which heavily featured Das. Grimy breakbeats equal a dance heavy tune. The rest of the album is executed in much the same way, dub basslines back up varying speeds of stuttering beats while digital interference and feedback easily square the tracks away into experimental territory.
The album harks back to Das's earlier days with Headspace, the pre-ADF entity formed by him and Chandrasonic, centered around sampling, digital effects, and bass. The only thing that keeps this album from receiving five ambiguous spheroid things is its lack of vocals. After a playing from start to end, you might be hard pressed to hit the repeat button because after all those instrumentals it might be time for some human vox, no matter how melodic that bass is. Those lucky enough to catch Dr. Das wield his bass on stage, either as part of ADF or as a guest with VU, are quick to realize that the man is at the top of his game. Always one to let his basslines do the talking, Das remains the quiet, mysterious persona although his swaying in time with the beat and pogo moves quickly become his on-stage signature. Emergency Basslines is no exception; perhaps that is why the human voice is so absent, if slightly missed, here.