Record review: Dub Spencer & Trance Hill vs. Umberto Echo – Too big to fail (2012, Echo Beach)

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill’s fifth album takes us on a trip of fully-instrumented vintage dub with a fresh, uplifting and crisp sound. Expect heavy basslines, psychedelic guitars, solid drums and a host echo and reverb dub effect to set you on a relaxing mind[traveling state.

Genre: Vintage Dub / Live Dub / Dub Rock

Country: Switzerloand

Artist Website: http://www.dubspencer.ch/

Label: Echo Beach

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill (DS & TH) draw inspiration from the vaults of Jamaican studios of the 1970s. They have collected all those secret, dusted tapes with basslines, riddims and effects and ,by recognizing how the dub sound has been fabricated in England, they render it under their own banner and creativity n the year 2012. The result is playful, trippy, vintage dub music that is both soothing and amusing for the music fan.

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill (sic name) is a live dub band from Zurich, Switzerland and ‘Too big to fail’ is their 5th full-length release so far. It is collaboration with Munich-based producer Umberto Echo, after they have successfully shared the stage many times in the past.  With 14 tracks and an extended running time (66:38’) seems that the band has a lot to ‘say’ as they also enjoy experimentation. Although they feature a throwback sound, it is by no means obsolete, musty or weak; instead their music is fresh with a clear and bright production, relaxing yet uplifting.

They are also flirting with progressive, psychedelic rock in their expansive body of sound. They use instruments like a standard rock band (drums, guitar, bass and keys/organ) as blended at the mixing desk of Umberto Echo. ‘Too big to fail’ contains a couple of amazing tracks like ‘The World Is Dub Enough’ where ambient timbres are driven by Jamaican trademark basslines that could have been played by bands like the Upsetters to give place to post-rock sounding guitar licks. The title track is also one of the most dynamic, where DS & TH showcase all the elements of their sound: solid drumming, psychedelic rocking guitars, heavy basslines, echoes and reverbs with an overall crisp sound. ‘Leechee‘ is a Hawkwind meets Ozric Tentacles in reggae/dub with captivating riddims. In general, ‘Too big to fail’ has a quality production and standout musicianship that sets the listener up for trance-like states.

The closest to their sound I can think of is Vienna’s Dubblestandard, Twilight Dub Circus, Dub Syndicate, the Aggrovators, the Clash etc and some post rock outfits. They are firmly rooted in original 1970s Jamaican dub as well as 1980s UK dub (as fused with rock) with their own prism and some continental European influences. ‘Too big to fail’ has a very interesting and positive sound, which does not only address the dubheads but also other audiences like lovers of instrumental music, progressive rock or French Dub stylers. However, I am not sure if this music can bring them to broader appeal since dub popularity has been shifting towards the heavier ends of the spectrum (dubstep being dominant).

Formed back in 2003 by bassist Masi Stalder (the only original member at present) and after self-releasing their first EPs, signing with Echo Beach back in 2006, re-establishing  themselves in 2007, touring relentlessly and covering rock classics like ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘London Calling’, Dub Spencer and Trance Hill have been forging a quite productive career. DH & TH have appeared in many compilations and  all their previous albums were released by the cult German label Echo Beach:

The Clashification of Dub (2011)

Riding strange horses (2010)

Return of the super cops (2007)

Nitro (2006)

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Discover more artists from the genre:

  1. Fu Steps – Holidays
  2. Boom One Sound System – Japanese Translations in Dub
  3. Full Dub – Potentiodub EP  (2012, ODG Productions)
  4. Lord Uptown – Power In Unity / Humble Dread Net 7’’
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