Champagne Dub, “Rainbow”
By Andy Thomas · February 07, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl, Vinyl LP

“Betamax has been playing drums for ages. However, after taking mushrooms, he realized that there was a deeper layer of rhythm that remained trapped by his ego.” So read the November 2018 press release for the debut collection of self-proclaimed “psychedelic dub rituals” by Champagne Dub, the London collective brought together by the Comet is Coming and Soccer 96 drummer. 

Released on Faith And Industry, the label run out of Stoke Newington’s Total Refreshment Centre by Capitol K, Drops was conceived by Betamax (Maxwell Hallett) with fellow sonic adventurers Ruth Goller (bassist, Melt Yourself Down/Acoustic Ladyland), Ed Briggs (homemade analog synths/electronics and “laser bagpipes”!), Nahum Mantra (theremin), and Mr Noodles (vocals). 

They are now working from the Quatermass Sound Lab studio of Malcolm Catto of the Heliocentrics, with Dilip “Demus” Harris adding his dub-wise touch on the mixing desk. For their new album for On the Corner Records, they are joined by Hallett’s dad, the experimental ambient/free improv musician Clive Bell, on assorted wind instruments, including shakuhachi flute (featured on the 2021 Betamax vs. Clive Bell album for the Byrd Out label).

Rainbow finds the collective channeling psychedelic dub scientists (Lee “Scratch” Perry, African Head Charge) and global dub adventurers (Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble). For this London collective, like many of their post-punk antecedents, dub creates a liberating space where everything from free improv jazz and post-rock to mutant disco and avant-garde hip-hop can swirl around. 

Imagine A Certain Ratio’s “Lucinda” transported to the Medina of Marrakesh with Adrian Sherwood at the controls, and you are halfway to the musical maelstrom of the opening track, “Sand Stick.” Chopped rhythms, snatches of melodies, and otherworldly shrieks emerge through the mix on “Wet Drip,” while “Full Moon Placenta” drops nyabinghi-style drums into a soup of synth drones.  

When they do hit the dancefloor, there’s a sense of menace behind the infectious grooves: take the voodoo disco of “Scrubbing,” with an unsettling vocal straight from a horror movie and an addictive keyboard line that gets its hooks deep into you. The group’s dislocated dance music continues on “Refreshment Guy,” with Liquid Liquid-style percussion, booming bass, and a cascading synth hook reminiscent of Joey Beltram’s rave anthem “Energy Flash.” Building from a haunting drone to a storm of Latin chants, “Chanco Vaca” is as expansive as it is agitated. The sonic assault continues on the title track, closing things in a turbulent whirlpool of feedback and effects. 

Champagne Dub take their name from a Jah Thomas production mixed by Scientist at Channel One studio with Roots Radics, the legendary group of musicians who helped steer reggae into the 1980s dancehall era. It’s a fitting name for a band who draw on dub’s past for what they call an “ancient-future meditation”: a suitably deep and exploratory album to open On The Corner’s 10th year.

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