Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kevin Martin's "The Bug" Drags Reggae into the 21st Century, Kicking and Screaming!

Who is "The Bug"? Who is this Kevin Martin? To say that Kevin Martin is a remarkable UK musician and producer who has worn many hats would be an understatement. Beginning with his Noise-Jazz combo, "God" in the late 80s, early 1990s, he cut an impressive musical-swath, even enjoying an LP produced by the legendary John Zorn. Martin has often been a favorite of Britain's edgy music periodical The Wire, a daring publication without any North American analog.

Going from God to ICE--a dub-themed project with former members of Head of David and Terminal Cheesecake--M
artin kept very close to the roots of reggae, ragga, soca, dancehall, but with the addition of elements of the hard rock, techno and industrial genres.

Eventually, ICE and the related Techno Animal projects with Justin K. Broadrick (Napalm Death, Godflesh, Jesu) went in the direction of a very controversial and iconoclastic hip-hop. But all-along, there were those interesting elements of Caribbean music, especially in the decidedly psyche
delic mixing usually associated with dub-reggae. Musical hybrids are one of those last routes towards innovation and the new, and it's frequently been the road to poverty. But tastes have changed dramatically in the last few years, and so have the fortunes of people like Martin, Broadrick, and even the "isolationist" Mick Harris. Dub is finally having its day.

Martin wasn't alone in his dub obsession during the 1990s, and he went as far as to compile two volumes of contemporary dub-mixing for Virgin Records under the moniker of "Macro Dub Infection," which included mixes by Tricky, Broadrick, Prince Paul, and Mick Harris of Scorn. Dub and dancehall are musical genres that never truly die, and this can be seen in the growing "dubstep" scene based in London, the worthy successor to drum-n'-bass (minimalist funk beats played at 45 RPM only hold the attention for so long).

With the demise of Techno Animal, Martin resurrected a little side-project called "The Bug," which began with a 1997 Wordsound LP with DJ Vadim titled "Tapping the Conversation," an ostensible replacement-score for Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film "The Conversation," a meditation on surveillance culture. Unlike the recent releases, this was an ominous instrumental work of looming, monolithic and apocalyptic hip-hop. In 2003, Martin released "," an incredible collection of what can only be called a radical reworking of dub, dancehall, ragga & soca, melded with extremely dramatic and intense techno-stylings and genuine Jamaican and UK MCs.
Since that second Bug LP, Kevin Martin has been releasing an almost constant stream of singles (and compilations of them) with Jamaican and UK reggae/dancehall/dubstep MCs like Warrior Queen, Mexican, Ras B, Daddy Freddy, Roger Robinson, Cutty Ranks, and even the extraordinary Toastie Taylor of UK hip-hop group New Flesh. It just gets better-and-better with every release, and it's sure to scare the neighbors (always worthwhile), if not your parents (and animals within earshot).
The sound? Imagine listening to reggae in a free-fire zone, that should make sense. The only real analogy I can make with "The Bug" and his collaborators is that this is the kind of decadent, apoc
alyptic music you'd expect to hear in a bar scene from something like Blade Runner (yup, like Techno Animal's "Re-entry"). It's a kind of future music that can only be heard to be believed, but you can almost hear within it those sea shanties and old pirate songs that surely kicked-off Jamaican and Caribbean musics.

On June 30th, Ninja Tune releases the new LP, "London Zoo" in the UK, and it's expected in North America either simultaneously or shortly afterwards (Ninja Tune is a Canadian-based label founded by remixers Coldcut). It ain't exactly a dub purist's dream, but it'll do in a pinch. For that, check Mick Harris's Scorn. This would have made great music for the barricades in 1968. Check the singles of The Bug, there are several already available online, and they kill. Grace Jones has given a thumbs-up on the Bug. A collaboration is in order.


Track-list:

01 Angry

02 Murder We

03 Skeng

04 Too Much Pain

05 Insane

06 Jah War

07 Fuckaz

08 You & Me

09 Freak Freak

10 Warning

11 Poison Dart

12 Judgement
06.28.2008 Postscript: The American release on CD, MP-3 (which is a degraded and compressed form of audio), and WAXXX.