Jay Glass Dubs – Soma Review

Jay Glass Dubs, the acclaimed musical venture of Dimitris Papadatos, is a project presented as “an exercise of style focusing on a counter-factual historical approach of dub music”. Which means that yes, its inception is rooted in dub; and that no, it is not yet another literal remake of King Tubby’s or Lee “Scratch” Perry‘s otherworldly adventures into mixing-board-wizardry land.

Papadatos already made that clear on the wonderful Epitaph, which infused his typical style with 4AD-style dream pop and goth/industrial vibes. He stresses it even more now with Soma, his new album dropped via Berceuse Heroique, a label whose DIY and “Idontgiveaf*ck” ethos perfectly suits Jay Glass Dubs’ unique sound.

“Soma” means “body” in Greek, and the album is presented as a palimpsest in which “all sorts of DNA microarrays” are “simultaneously one and a multitude”.

Glimpses of familiar sounds and genres are not so much revisited but rather reimagined and transplanted into a parallel realm, where any boundary between genres and the what’s-what so beloved by music journalists are mashed and dissolved in Jay Glass Dubs’ very own hallucinogen world. If this world were a single body, it would be “a body slithering among the debris of 21st-century music”, as the press release goes. And no expression could better catch the spirit of this album.

Listening to Soma feels like traveling into time and space, back and forth between geographic and musical references that make up an imaginary and marvelous universe. Take the notion of non-places but twist it up with a positive underlining; or strip the exoticism off the idea of fourth world music, leaving only this idea of a sonic world shaped by one’s imagination and compositional skills. Also, there is, more than before, a sort of mystical, perhaps sacred halo enveloping the album, one that nods at the ancient tales of Greek mythology. As you let Soma’s tracks unfold, you may feel like Ulysses or Jason venturing into unknown and fantastic lands.

Just like he did on Epitaph, Jay Glass Dubs does without the word “dub” in the track list, marking verbally – other than sonically – an open mindset and allowing multifaceted influences to surface. Leaning heavily on ‘90s trip hop (see “Apple, Sliced”, “The Wrong Frame”, “Dots On Nails”, “How Glass Bred”), for both atmosphere and sound, Soma is the most diverse yet coherent work Jay Glass Dubs has made so far. After the solemn, memorable opening of “One Hundred Seven”, get ready to find stripped-down and dreamy tracks (“Our Reversed Uniforms”, “Suffix Harness”), an almost spiritual take on d’n’b (“Now Set Up”), more kinetic and claustrophobic episodes (“Wagon Prophet”, the 8-minute journey of “Barked”), and much more.

One of the undisputed merits of Jay Glass Dubs is the expansion of the very idea of dub music; here, he updates its signifiers to a blues-like attitude conflating the vast spaces of echo chambers and reverbs with the empty spaces of big cities and moody, smoky vibes built on melancholia and longing. If emotions were mainly absent from classical and modern dub – being a genre that relies on rhythm, space, and atmosphere – Papadatos has brought it in with Soma (“everything you do is useful / even when you sleep” sings Young Echo’s Jasmine on the ethereal and tear-jerking “Shape”).

Soma confirms Jay Glass Dubs as one of the undisputed masters of contemporary leftfield music. Far from easy categorization and trite orthodoxies, he shows once again that dub is much more than just a genre. It’s an attitude, a lens, a feeling. Even more so, he has definitively disentangled himself from that very “dub” tag, proving that his own soundworld is more than words can describe.

 

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