Replicant Vibes

Echo Base Soundsystem: a cornerstone of Austin's underground music scene (courtesy photo)

Austin's Echo Base Soundsystem takes traditional dub into the electronic age

"Dub music is all about roots, it's all about that good feeling - almost like moving 24 frames per second," says DJ Low-Res, a local artist responsible for bringing Austin electro-dub group Echo Base Soundsystem to San Antonio.

Like reggae and ska before it, dub music was born in the ghettos of Jamaica and was post-hip-hop before hip-hop. Legends like Lee "Scratch" Perry and Mad Professor transformed the role of the engineer in music and brought the genre to the masses, but it all comes back to Osbourne Ruddock, aka King Tubby. Sometime in the late 1960s, Ruddock began experimenting with what he later termed the "implements of sound" and accidentally created dub.

Dick Hebdige describes the event in his seminal tome, Cut 'N' Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music. "One day, King Tubby, a record engineer, was working in his studio mixing a few ska specials for Sir Coxsone's Downbeat system. He began fading out the instrumental track, to make sure that the vocals sounded right. And he was excited by the effect produced when he brought

"Dub music is all about roots, it's all about that good feeling — almost like moving 24 frames per second."
— DJ Low-res
the music back in. So instead of mixing the specials in the usual way, he cut back and forth between the vocal and instrumental tracks and played with the bass and treble knobs until he changed the original tapes into something else entirely."

Echo Base Soundsystem formed in Austin more than three years ago by Eddie Torres, Nicolas Trevino, Philip Hernandez, Andrew Gerfers, and Pete Neonakis. The ensemble formed around the concept of taking the ambient, groove-oriented aesthetic of dub and applying it to modern electronic music, which shares much of dub's sense of spacy mood enhancement.

Since then, the sonic collective has formed a cornerstone in the city's underground experimental music scene, using the conceptual framework of dub music to create a universal approach to all genres, including electronica. Their performances have been described as ranging from incendiary to dreamy narcotic, and their self-titled debut, released in December, has been lauded by reviewers as "the Bitches Brew of dub" and "a musical sound pastiche" that would make King Tubby proud.

Low-Res accurately describes the group's musical approach as "a nice balance between analog and digital."

Echo Base Soundsystem

With DJ Klassen,
Low-Res, Clusaki

Saturday, February 21

Salazar Studio
120 Guadalupe Street

The group's debut LP is a solid collection of beat-heavy instrumental numbers that clocks in at about 45 minutes. Guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards merge seamlessly, and tracks such as "Neko" and "Dem Have" recall traditional dub while others like "Zentrum" propel the genre to new electronic heights. The echo-drenched mix is exploited through performances that adroitly leave plenty of space, and include surprising Eastern and surf-guitar elements.

At its best, Echo Base Soundsystem embodies musicologist David Toop's definition of dub.

"Dub music is like a long echo delay, looping through time," Toop has said. "Regenerating every few years, sometimes so quiet only a disciple could hear, sometimes shatteringly loud, dub unpicks music in the commercial sphere. Spreading out a song or a groove over a vast landscape of peaks and deep trenches, extending hooks and beats to vanishing point, dub creates new maps of time, intangible sound sculptures, sacred sites, balm and shock for mind, body and spirit." •

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