Dread Recordings boss and original bad man Ray Keith has opened up the top secret archives from his studio once again with a collection of dubplates that take us back and still looks forward in that way that only Ray Keith can do. This collection is a master class on how it’s done. The feel and vibes of old school sounds with the top notch production standards that we’ve all come to expect from Dread Recordings.
What if I told you that there was a secret vault in a hidden location where all of the experiments that one of the original names in Drum & Bass had done were collected in one place? And what if, every so often, for undisclosed reasons, said person would open up that secret archive and select for us his favorite dubplates? That’s what this feels like, and I’m just gonna choose to believe that it’s in an underground secret lab somewhere. Just cuz I like to imagine Ray Keith as the original mad scientist.
And it’s not that far off really.
There’s too much to cover everything here. So I’m just gonna hit the highlights. But, this entire collection is worth it. It’s got it all. Listener gems and dance floor movers. Let’s listen a bit closer so a few selections.
‘What’s Up’ has rolling precision snares for days and a rumbling bass line that you really wanna hear in a room where it can make your feet vibrate. I do anyway. Vocal stabs and effects punctuate one of those longer old school rolls that seem to go on forever, yet ends far too soon. It’s really a piece that I imagine playing back in the day of The Blue Note in London. Calling back to that era. Not out of nostalgia, but for reinforcements. I just want this track to keep going. But thats’ ok, cuz this album still has more to offer.
‘Let There Be Light’ drifts in with ocean sounds and seagulls like your heading out to sea on a long voyage. Can’t say I can argue with that either. In comes the snare, hi hat and kick and the drop isn’t dramatic at all. It sorta “just happens” and now we’re rolling. A bass line that is….well…a bass guitar. This track really does have a “live” band feel. The effects in the background adding textures like strange creatures popping up at the surface of the ocean to peak up at you as you sail out. Ray Keith pretty much just pitches all of the conventional standards of modern song structure on this and just lets the music roll with the inspiration. Unique and classic all in one.
‘Phantom Dread’ is so unique I don’t even know where to start. All of it, every beat, every sample, pulls your attention away from everything else going on and I’m just like “what the….?”. It never let’s you rest and you can never predict where it’s going. It rolls and yet somehow keeps you peaked as a listener at the same time. This was definitely not written with a dance floor in mind. But, you want to dance to it all the same. Dread Recordings anthem clearly from the title. But, that’s not quite right is it? No, not anthem….signature is the word I’m looking for. I think of this as Ray Keith making his signature in sound.
‘Fade to Grey’ is just another level all together. It’s got much of the same elements and styles mentioned above in other tracks. But, I’m gonna keep it real: I was about done writing this review and this track came on and I just had to review it. This reporters favorite on the album. It just keeps coming at you. Simplicity at it’s finest. Those stabbing bass hits just keep building the intensity. And it never lets you go. I’m gonna say it again, standard conventions in current song structure are just pitched right over board here. Remember, way back in the day when pretty much everything that came out was unique in it’s own way? Yeah, it’s like that.
Every track on this album is a journey. Overall, in a word: Epic.