Readers recommend playlist: songs influenced by dub

An eclectic, global set of tunes that have dub at their heart – Killing Joke, Warpaint and even the Pretenders make this week’s reader-curated list

Here is this week’s playlist of songs picked by a reader from your suggestions after last week’s callout. Read more about how our weekly Readers recommend series works at the end of the piece.

We start with the familiar: the PretendersPrivate Life. Howls of dismay are probably emanating from all points. Grace Jones’s cover was icily majestic and smoothly controlled, but Chrissie Hynde’s original growls with contempt and unbridled scorn. This was a case of dub crossing the Atlantic from Jamaica, being adapted for use in a rock song and then being sold back to the Jamaicans. Result.

The playlist on YouTube. The Warpaint remix doesn’t appear but you can listen here.

Tam Lyn (Retold) is another crosscultural exercise. The Imagined Village featuring Benjamin Zephaniah make all the right noises behind this reinvention of one of Britain’s oldest folk tales. Eliza Carthy pops in occasionally to add her versatile voice to Zephaniah’s ominous, modernist narrative.

Still in the UK, Leicester’s Vibronics serve up a molten rhythm that binds the echoing vaults of If a No Jah Dub like dark matter. Most of the band’s work is digitally produced, yet they have played acoustic sets at festivals.

Now to Poland, where Hatti Vatti feat Sara Brylewska offer up Different Music. Hatti Vatti is guitarist Piotr Kalinski, a man noted for his collaborations. This song’s edgy beats and spectral echoes complement Brylewska’s dreamy, almost distracted vocals.

Killing Joke’s Turn to Red EP brought them to the attention of such luminaries as John Peel and John Lydon, who set about championing the group’s work. The title track originally contained a locked groove that endlessly repeated the word “red”. Fortunately, this dub version of this song – perfect for today’s list – does no such thing. Although clattered and pounded by heavy dub effects, we are released at the end of the song.

Back to the US for Warpaint, with Disco/Very (Trevor Jackson Dub). This song’s rigid rhythm is thumped out by drums and bass that allow the vocals to stretch and collapse before re-forming, weaving in and out of some very smart guitar work. There’s a trippy sensibility at work, reminiscent of older musical forms, while the whole thing still manages to sound futuristic.

Brooklyn Funk EssentialsIstanbul Twilight is a dubbed-up Anatolian stroll in the company of Turkish clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici. This New York-based collective seem at home steering the beats around foreign instruments; equally, the man on the clarinet doesn’t appear to leave his comfort zone. It’s a heady whiff of Asia Minor, coffee and spices.

Inyaki Yarritu’s dub experiments earned him credit in Spain and notably in his own Basque region. His impressive track record followed him to London, where he began a studio project known as Basque Dub Foundation. As BDF, his El Secuestro del Dub wears its Augustus Pablo influence on its sleeve, and is all the better for it, as Pablo’s Middle Eastern licks meld well with Yarritu’s Iberian temperament.

Next we have Colourbox’s Baby I Love You So, which raids Jamaican music’s 70s spaghetti western fixation. Somehow, the band made a hit single from such disparate properties as a yearning-for-love vocal, ricocheting pistol shots, sampled movie dialogue and a memorable bassline. It was an adventurous record for the mid-80s, and still jumps off the turntable.

CCTV by LV feat Dandelion creeps stealthily through a squelching soundscape that oozes paranoia. We are in a modern city, where authoritarian eyes track our every move, yet sardonic humour runs through the song. It conjures images of darkened streets where men in Burberry trenchcoats glance warily over their shoulders.

Ursula Rucker’s Ring the Alarm takes ill-fated Tenor Saw’s dancehall classic by the theme and runs with it – towards us. Shouting “Feck” at us. Brandishing angry slogans as if they were molotov cocktails. This woman has something to say, and she knows how to make you listen. You feel you’d better listen. And all the while she circles Saw’s shimmering lyrics like a predator.

Fat Freddy’s Drop send us Russia all the way from New Zealand. This is a beautifully sung skankalong heartbeat rhythm that is almost overladen with hooks. These chaps can seriously play. Added to the mix is a plethora of dub effects that spice up an already rich concoction.

And to demonstrate that dub is welcome everywhere music is played, we retire to bucolic Cheltenham to polka to a reggae beat. Just think of an instrument, any instrument, and you will most likely hear it stepping in somewhere to take a turn in Edward II and the Red Hot PolkasBjorn Again Polka. This is one record I’d like to morris dance to.

Not all songs appear on the Spotify playlist as some are unavailable on the service.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (BST) on Thursday 8 June. You have until 11pm on Monday 5 June to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:


George Boyland

The GuardianTramp

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