The basic components of the RDF experience are all here. The bass-heavy minimal dub beats, that had us all gently swaying at those free festivals in the nineties. The brash, apocalyptic yet strangely catchy poetry of Chris Bowsher, that drives the narrative. But what really sets this latest album apart is the presence of Killing Joke bassist and production genius Youth at the controls. His love affair with dub can be traced back to 1979 and the release of ‘Turn to red’ which saw Killing Joke explore the realms of dub with one of their most memorable and defining releases. He has examined its outer reaches ever since.
So this record sees the RDF sound enriched and extended beyond anything they have done before while still retaining that spacious feel that was their trademark. Opening track ‘Old man’s eyes’ sees Chris in typical mode as the world-weary voice of reason in a universe gone a bit mad. The sound is more complex that what we’re used to with the welcome addition of a nicely understated brass section, which appears throughout the album. ‘Feel dread’ also sees us back on familiar territory with a down beat bass line driving the song but with subtle techno bleeps enriching the mix as the dreadlocked director of doom explores the pointlessness of everything.
We also get new interpretations of those classic tunes from long ago. ‘Rogue trooper’ still carries the clout it had almost thirty years ago while ‘Surplus people’ retains its crown as their most danceable number. All in all this is a great record and an lovely rebirth for a band whose politics remain as prophetic as ever.
The second disc in this package makes this release even more of a bargain. Remixes are often seen as a gimmick. Dub remixes are usually poor imitations of the original song, used back in the day to fill that bit of space on the EP or 12 inch. Youth doesn’t challenge these assumptions with part two of this album; he utterly destroys them. The second instalment of this project takes the listener on a journey of dub perfection that very many masters of this field would hand over their vital organs to be part of. Chris’s vocals make occasional appearances in what is an epic exploration of what the mixing desk can achieve. The spirit of RDF and their unique sound is retained but Youth is let off his lead to explore the complex landscape of what can be achieved in the edit and he does not disappoint. Two lovely records for the price of one.
By Guy Smallman