Record Review: High Damage – High Tone meets Brain Damage (2012)

A set of crucial dub – a perfect match between two prominent acts: High Tone and Brain Damage

High Damage

Genre: French Dub

Region: Lyon, Saint-Étienne, France

Artists’ Website: High Damage

Label: Jarring Effects

Freegan Kolektiva is following as much as possible everything exciting that occurs in the dub world. ‘High Damage’, the hybrid form of High Tone merged with Brain Damage, is certainly a major event itself. Although this album was released roughly three months ago, it got stuck in FK’s repositories. Nonetheless, this album contains some of the most crucial dub tracks in 2012 and it already has received its honorary spot in FK’s web space.

High Tone have been the luminaries of French dub for a good 15 years with landmark releases like 2002’s ‘Acid Dub Nucleik’ or 2006’s High Damage High Tone Brain Damage‘Underground Wobble’. Their live performances are simply striking, revealing an instrumental, experiential, almost palpable, world of live dub. Since 2003 they have been collaborating with other important artists like Kaly Live Dub (’Kaltone’) and Improvisators Dub (’Highvisators’). Although encompassing dub in its whole tradition, they have been dedicated in pushing the boundaries of their music by incorporating elements from electronic music (electro, d’n’b, ambient, dubstep etc.) and ethnic samples as manifested in a proper live setting. Their endeavour continues with High Damage as well.

Brain Damage have been core conspirators of the French dub renaissance, which still constitutes a source of inspiration for dub music worldwide. Their trademark sound is very personal, peculiar and emotive always apt to surface in different forms. A collaboration between these two dub acts could only be adventurous and the album really proves that.

High Damage LiveHigh Damage starts with ‘The Dawn’ and finishes with ‘The Dusk’ as marked by ‘The Midday Sun’ in the middle, a short track that divides the 10 compositions of the album in two sides. Already from the first tracks, the listener is immersed in the heavily loaded ‘thick’ dub universe, that High Damage have constructed here. With an original feel for further ‘stretching out’ and experimentation, the group treads on new soundscapes and ‘The Dawn’ is spearheading this new armada.

The merging of these two groups is very intricate and balanced as evident in songs like ‘Stereovision’ or ‘Brain Tone’, none force is overpowering they rather weave their sound as a single unified unit and that can a paradigm for other dub collaborations to come. ‘Brain Tone’ is the continuation of standout tracks like ‘Dry’ or ‘Boogie Dub Production’ firmly rooted in the annals of Black Ark or Augustus Pablo’s vinyls albeit with 10-ton digital bass heaviness and a militant danceable beat amidst electro overtones. The melodica is utterly epic. The next astonishing track, ‘Shake Up’, features Zeb McQueen in vocals and brings the roots reggae on a wobbling Burial-style dubstep backbone.

‘I Did My Time’ is a heavy plodding UK steppers anthem and after the short break comes even heavier as ‘Nuclear Ambush’ with some far eastern melodies and karate samples and a track progression that bares the characteristic High Tone Signature. The second half of the album continues further in the harder way with the electro stepper ‘Dub On Tune In And Drop Out’, the industrial bizarre of ‘ZZZ’ and the dubstep drops of ‘Watching You’, albeit with less interest. Finally, the album’s last track ‘The Dusk’ complements the dub pandemonium of the album’s starter to close the circle.

High Damage Studio

Overall, it is a great dub album especially in its first half. Sonic experimentation comes with impressive results here: a rich sound looking into the future (although with hints of ‘foundation dub’ here and there) balanced between the two groups to be represented sufficiently in this new but self-standing entity of ‘High Damage’.

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More intriguing dub via Freegan Kolektiva:

  1. MDC – Conception EP (2012, ODG Productions)
  2. Shanti D & Mayd Hubb – Politik 7″ (2012, Dubatriation Records)
  3. Morphy – The Three Wise Dubs EP (2011, charity giveaway self-release)
  4. Celt Islam – Baghdad (2012, Ajnavision records)
  5. Full Dub – Potentiodub EP  (2012, ODG Productions)
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