Record Review: Boom One Sound System – Japanese Translations in Dub EP (TerraLogica Recordings)

Boom One Sound System deliver their best songs to date, blending oldschool dub with the digital edge of UK sound, tinged by ethnic overtones from Japan.

Boom One Sound System (BOSS) is a rising new group venturing into the world of dub, although they display influences from genres as diverse as hip-hop, reggae, glitch and grime. BOSS, formed in 2009 in the US, is an experimental outfit coming onstage with live beat mixing via MIDI controllers, percussions etc. and rhyming from various MCs (or I shall say deejays?).

While in their previous recording , that you can find in their Soundcloud page, you can hear all those influences taking place, this EP is a much more focused and coherent release based on traditional dub with some ethnic overtones.  There is a clear departure from their earlier meshworks that prove that signifies an improvement on all scales for Boom One Sound System as their new sound is more unified and effective.

The heart of Boom One Sound System is Justin Butler who has been responsible for composing, mixing, arrangind and producing the ‘Japanese Translations in Dub’ EP. He has been playing also guitar, bass, keys and percussions. He is accompanied by core BOSS member Peter Brown (melodica, keys, bass, vocals) and Rudy Garceau who played trombone and trumpet.

The first song ‘Sakura’ is a remarkable ethno-dub number with strong basslines, tons of effects and a solid uptempo beat. The ‘ancient’ Japanese melodies and melodica textures are blended into a coherent dub whole. Justin Butler found the right timbre to bring about the ethnic element on this song. Actually this Japanese koto-like melody is delivered in a way similar to the guitar riffs featured in roots reggae and dubs from the 1970s or synths in UK dub. This blend of world music and dub brings unavoidably in mind the pioneer in the genre, Jah Wobble (especially 2008’s ‘Chinese Dub’ and 2010’s ‘Japanese Dub’ albums),  although BOSS stick much more to the dud core in comparison.

Sakura means cherry blossom, which is commonly depicted on pottery, and is associated with the ancient activity of ‘hanami’ (holding picknick feasts under blossoming trees. Sakura symbolizes also the impermanent nature of existemce (‘mono no aware’), the awareness and pathos of the transience of the living world.  Sakura is my favourite track of this EP.

Basho Haiku’ displays a more experimental style with tempo shifts. The vocals by Starling Saw are rather strange, rough and gloomy and do not match the quality of the overall effort.  The lyrics are translations of the national poet of Japan, Matsuo Basho, who specialized in haiku poetry. After renouncing his social life he travelled all corners of Japans to seek inspiration in the wilderness; his brief poems reflect his direct experiences of the world around him.

Yagi Bushi’ is a typical dub anthem with heavy use of effects along the track and a well-arranged horn section delivered by Rudy Garceau. It follows traditional dub patterns akin to Twilight Sound System and Dub Activist and the oldschool dub of Jamaican controllers.

Koto’ features tough bass, probably the most addictive lines of this EP in addition to koto (Japanese string instrument)melodies which get artfully fused. The hard beat and bass line showcase a harder edge on this track reminiscent of Jah Free and 1990s UK dub style.

Overall, it is a solid release, marking Boom One Sound System’s best effort to date. This blend of Jamican 1970s dub with UK dub tinged with ethnic elements it is the most coherent release from this band. This tasteful blend shows that there is still plenty of space to experiment on merging world music with dub by going further on the road paved in the past (most notably as heard in the daring works of Jah Wobble).

Moreover, I want to mention the exquisite cover art, credited to the audiovisual performer GalaxC Girl, which depicts successfully the sound of this EP by bringing classic dub covers (e.g. Scientist) into a more fuzzy ethnic style.

BOSS seem to be quite active and they are investing on their sound (e.g. they are building their own home studio) so we can expect more from them in the future with their “future roots”, as they like to call their music. We can only wish them to go further in the direction of the ‘Japanese Translations in Dub’ EP by refining and distilling their sound.

As BOSS put it: “The future is beauty, unity and one love.”

Links: the official website of Boom One Sound System


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