Urban Sounds: Digital roots return to Tel Aviv

Behind the sound effects and hi-tech recording studios lies the same guiding light as that of roots reggae's founding fathers.

Bush chemists 88 (photo credit: )
Bush chemists 88
(photo credit: )
Selecting the wrong chemicals for an experiment can be a risky business, so it's just as well that England's Bush Chemists know exactly what they are playing with: bass and drums. Like many young urban Brits in the 1980s, they were inspired by the reggae sounds that had been drifting over the Atlantic for the previous decade - in particular the then-groundbreaking experimental dub recordings from the studio of the legendary King Tubby. Taking things one step further than other fans, Paul Davey and former record shop owner Dougie Wardrop set up their own studio in London and began to use new technology such as digital sound processors and drum machines, which had been unavailable to the reggae pioneers of Jamaica. And so the Bush Chemists were born. The duo will be bringing the latest cuts from their studio direct to Tel Aviv this Thursday (February 15) for a one-off performance at the Koltura Club. The Chemists will be joined live on stage by reggae vocalist Culture Freeman, the self-proclaimed "Ambassador of Roots" and long-time Bush Chemists collaborator. On the surface, the Chemists have more in common with modern digital reggae artists like England's Iration Steppas (who toured Israel in late 2007) than with Jamaican roots reggae legends such as Lee Scratch Perry. But behind the sound effects and hi-tech recording techniques lies the same guiding light: heavy bass lines, meditative rhythms and syncopated beats. The pair describe themselves as "the conscious sound of dub," reflecting the Rastafarian message found in their music. Wardrop's studio and record label, Conscious Sounds, has hosted countless artists including Barry Isaacs, Kenny Knotts, Jah Warrior, as well as Culture Freeman himself. Since their full-length first release, Dub Convention, in 1996, they now have eight albums under their belt and dozens of singles, including Culture Freeman's frantic "Fittest of the Fittest" which was recently re-released by Conscious Sounds after becoming a collectors' item since it was recorded over a decade ago. Support on Thursday night comes from Tel Aviv's DJ Ganja Vibes, as well as Israeli vocalists Ranking Levy and Blondub Sexy Sound. Bush Chemists and Culture Freeman play next Friday, February 15, at Kultura Club, Rehov Herzl 154, Tel Aviv. Tickets are 70 NIS at the door or 50 NIS in advance from (07) 791-08882/3 www.myspace.com/conscioussounds