Bill Laswell’s “Dub Chamber 3” was the third installment in Bill’s ongoing “Sacred System” series. Bill’s approach to dub music has not always brought an enthusiastic response from hardcore fans of the genre. Although Laswell’s music has the nice sounds and all the pretty outer trappings of a modern dub recording, the real meat and potatoes of dub-wise rhythms and melodies are not here. Instead, what we have on “Dub Chamber 3” is more of a trip-hop, ambient down-tempo bass-heavy groove topped with perfectly timed electronics, long trumpet tones and occasional funky Fender Rhodes. When taken as a dub influenced trip-hop piece, this CD stands out in a field dominated with mediocrity and boring repetition. Call it what you like, there is some very nice music on here, and far more musical development than your average down-tempo disc.
Laswell assembled an all-star cast for this recording, including some major pioneers in the world of dub influenced nu jazz including; Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet, Nicky Skopelitis on guitar and the great Jah Wobble on bass on one cut. Craig Taborn’s occasional short electric piano solos also help add interest. The first two cuts are built around somewhat repetitious and common sounding hip-hop drum loops, but are layered with some very imaginative soundscapes. On the third cut, “Devil Syndrome”, the rhythm goes into a double time drive that seems at odds with the rest of the CD. From a rhythmic standpoint, the best cut is the fourth and lengthy closer, “A Screaming Comes Across the Sky”. On this one Laswell breaks out an old school drum machine and programs some very interesting and odd broken up sparse beats that ramble on forever while the music goes through some very interesting changes. Too bad all of the tracks on this CD could not be as musical as this one, its a gem.
Although some of the rhythms on here may seem a bit pedestrian to hardcore dub fans, the sounds and musical phrases layered on these beats are top notch. Bill is a master of the studio and his effects are perfectly timed to build a careful ambient atmosphere that often has a somber and almost religious feel to it. Much credit should also go to the beautiful guitar playing of Nicky Skopelitis, a major pioneer in today’s atmospheric approach to guitar. Nu jazz trumpet ace Nils Petter Molvaer is a natural for Laswell’s sense of timing and texture, and his long mournful tones add to the mix on two cuts.
Fans of trip-hop, ambient down-tempo and early nu jazz will find a lot to like here, this disc is far more interesting than most, and the closing cut is a masterpiece of the genre. Fans of Laswell’s work in this area may also want to check out “Hallucination Engine”, possibly Bill’s best album in this style. Those who are using this as a gateway to true dub music will want to check out the late 70s recordings of King Tubby, Scientist and Prince Jammy.