Seven years ago, Easy Star All-Stars took on a daunting challenge: reimagining one of the most beloved albums of all time, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, as a reggae album. This seems like a ridiculous idea, but they managed to pull it off. Seven years later, the All-Stars decided it was time to revisit the revisit. Enter Dubber Side of the Moon, a remix album pushing material that was already vastly different from the original songs further towards dubstep. While the reggae roots of the album shine through, the remixes bring the songs into a new era of digitized music.
Before I dig in too much further, I should confess that I’ve never been a huge reggae fan. It’s been something I’ve enjoyed in passing from time to time, but not much more. However, the more I listened to both Dubber and Dub Side of the Moon, the more I found that I really could enjoy reggae.
The original take on the classic material, Dub Side of the Moon, painstakingly follows the original in terms of track times, tempos, and the various voices, coughs, and other noises that intrude. Even the supposed Wizard of Oz synchronicity remains. Nothing is lost in the transformation, but it’s not without adventure. Perhaps the best example of this is their version of “On the Run”. While it maintains the similar running synth line of the original instrumental track, it quickly makes its distinction by going down the drum ‘n bass path and ditching a couple of the screaming synth effects. It suits the song well.
Dubber Side of the Moon kicks off with the Dubmatix remix of “Speak to Me/Breathe (In the Air)”. It strips out a fair number of the instruments on the Dub Side version, placing an emphasis on the horn section and heavy bass. 10 Ft. Ganja Plant’s remix of “On the Run” follows, fitting more in the mold of traditional reggae than the original Easy Stars’ take. The groundwork had been laid for experimentation, but by staying too genre-faithful it represents a rare misstep.
Groove Corporation set things back on the right track with their remix of “Time,” one of the highlights of the album. Heavy bass synth lines run below the reggae rhythms, with tasteful synth squiggles floating above to accent the vocals. It offers the perfect combination of dubstep and reggae and successfully sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Dubphonic follow it up by sending “The Great Gig in the Sky” right to the heavens, swirling synths and heavy bass taking turns in the lead role. Things continue on in a the same fashion, from the lighter electronic sounds of Dreadzone’s remix of “Us and Them” and J. Viewz’s remix of “On the Run” — which at times bring to mind the music of Four Tet — to the deeper tones of Kalbata’s “Any Colour You Like” remix. Despite another misstep or two – Adrian Sherwood & Jazzwad’s remix of Brain Damage comes to mind – it’s generally pretty smooth from there.
All in all, Dubber Side of the Moon surprised me. This bizarre combination of sounds never could have worked in my head, but I guess that’s why I wasn’t invited to produce this album. Consider this reggae hater won over.
Dubber Side of the Moon Tracklist:
01. Speak To Me / Breathe (In The Air) (Dubmatix Remix)
02. On The Run (10 Feat. Ganja Plant Remix)
03. Time (Groove Corporation Remix)
04. The Great Gig In The Sky (Dubphonic Remix)
05. Money (Alchemist Remix)
06. Us And Them (Dreadzone Remix)
07. Any Colour You Like (Kalbata Remix)
08. Brain Damage (Adrian Sherwood And Jazzwad Remix)
09. Eclipse (Victor Rice Remix)
10. Step It Pon The Rastaman Scene (Border Crossing Remix)
11. Money (Mad Professor Remix)
12. Time Version (Michael G Easy Star All – Stars Remix)
13. On The Run (J.Viewz Remix)