If ever a music was destined to live on well past its peak of popularity, that music was dub. Its lingering presence, which swells every few years, resembles nothing so much as the sweltering echoes that are the music’s aural stock in trade. Dub has, in fact, become an echo of itself, not so much a meta-genre as a genre that has attained quasi-immortality by seeping into the background. Amorphous by nature, dub is unlikely to ever become a major commercial enterprise, certainly not a major commercial-recording enterprise, though perhaps a live one (or perhaps some heady subscription channel in a future market of domestic background streams). The music, formless by nature, a haze of sounds and beats, resists packaging.
Despite which challenges, dub has more than its share of virtuosos, not just the Caribbean originators, but the eager landlocked adopters, folks like Bill Laswell, Calvin Johnson’s Dub Narcotic Sound System, Raz Mesinai and, of late, David Last, who must be one of the foremost practitioners of dub going. There’s a live set on his website, davidlast.net, an hour-long tumble of styles that dates from early this year, and it is absolutely stellar. It moves from groovy slo-mo rituals with Middle Eastern accents, through periods of retro reggae, through European street music, its bass lines slinking like sleepy, bloated eels through thick waters, its rhythms offset with casual counterpoint. Last is as comfortable with moments of meticulous glitch as he is with rapturous orchestral extravagance. (He also has a peculiar sense of trippy, trippy being an important part of dub’s appeal; in this case, it involves a computerized voice admonishing you for missing a big meeting with your boss.) And this particular set peaks at just the right time, the melodica piercing the ceiling amid raucous laughter for a brief spell, just before the recording fades. (Direct link to MP3 here.)