The Forest Electric

29 05 2007

Heavyweight Dub Champtions

By Jill Ettinger

A few weeks ago I attended a small music festival in a state park near Santa Barbara, California, called Lightning in a Bottle. It’s an ambitious project put on by the Do Lab with an emphasis on low-impact green energy and emerging artists, in the backdrop of a sunny, breezy reclusive thicket. Though this summer will mark my first visit to Black Rock City, I can spot its town folk pretty easily, and this entheogenic village certainly served as a vacation spot for many members of the desert tribe including its resident groove enhancers Bassnectar and The Mutaytor.

What struck me as most exciting about this event was the type of music brought to this natural environment. For as long as we’ve stood upright, we’ve been making music in nature – with nature. However, one thing profoundly separates then from now: electronics. Our sonic relationship with nature has always been acoustic, naked, simple rhythms as we whispered lullabies above a symphony of crickets and birds. Nature provided us with relatively simple instruments that enhanced the human voice, hand-clapping and foot stomping: Aborigines blew the first musical notes through dijeridoos made of termite-hollowed logs, Africans stretched goat-skins over shells and wood into drums like the djembe, Japanese carved shakuhachi flutes out of bamboo. Though we’ve expanded our collection of sound makers, our elder instruments continue to make some of the most beautiful and powerful music. Enter Ben Franklin’s kite experiment and the electrical engineering movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries revolutionized, well everything – most definitely sound.

So what seems logical, as logic would dictate, is no longer. Things are never what they seem and always what they should be. Drum circles and a cappella expressions, certainly appropriate in the dark and quiet of a forest night, have been joined by electronic music. These festival highlights are no more out of place than any other instruments carved by or built into us. We are electric beings and our music resembles the broader spectrum of our complexity.

Two stand out performances from LIB this year were heavily electronic, though vastly different in style: Rena Jones and Heavyweight Dub Champion. What Miss Jones brings is a subtle, gentle side of electronica. Her use of violin and cello are simply gorgeous. Her innovative 2006 release Driftwood is a stunning montage of mid-tempo and chill out, much like nature itself. Jones is a perfect definition of the future of music. She taps into our aural history in no specific way and retools it into something delicate and ambient. Tracks like “Open Me Slowly,” “The Passing Storm” and “Photosynthesis” are precisely why NPR rated this record the 6th most essential of 2006. It’s exciting to see an artist of this caliber emerge, like a new species of orchid discovered on a remote island, reminding us that life is full of beautiful surprises.

Heavyweight Dub Champion tips the other side of the scale. Bass-heavy trance-inducing beats tie together the modern and primitive, connecting to the hunter/warrior of our ancestry. Moving through the jungles of our circumstances, where we are and where we’re going indistinguishable. Suddenly, everything becomes clear in a way that words will never explain, but rhythms always do. Check ‘em out here, a great performance at last summer’s Reggae on the River with Brooklyn’s favorite dub-duo, Dr. Israel and Lady K.




One response

7 06 2007

Thanks from the Heavyweight crew for the great write up. LIAB was a blast! One thing though, you misspelled our name – it’s Heavyweight Dub Champion (singular). There is only one!

“The Liberation Process is in Full Effect”

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