Down Memory Gap Lane
(Unitone, 2001)

Down Memory Gap Lane is an intense album of bass-heavy, dub reggae with some electronica thrown into the mix. It's a better choice for a club or party environment than for solo listening at home, but it's full of energy either way. I tend to be more of a roots reggae fan, but did find this one enjoyable and interesting.

I particularly appreciated the socially conscious pieces here. It's one of the things I love about roots reggae, and it was good to hear some of it in a more contemporary form. The song "Reparation" is excellent, sung from the point of view of a descendant of slave-owners, and making that side of the argument explicitly while the points of the other side are obvious in contrast. It has an entertaining twist, too -- the slave-owners were in Ghana, and the slaves European. I'm sorry to say I have no idea whether this is based on historical fact, but the reference to "blond, stringy-haired pickaninnies" was a striking accent to the subject of the song.

"Gunman" is another activist song, effectively using the voices of children talking to their daddy to oppose the violence in our culture today. And "Turn the Tide" offers encouragement, saying that it's never too late to make a difference, and saying it with a great beat!

"Piece o' Mind" is very long, at almost 18 minutes, and much of it is ambient natural sounds, like crickets, with the occasional instrument chiming in. That part's very peaceful, and the earlier section moving from ambient with spoken word to a more bass-heavy sound underlying the ambient, and back again. It's a fascinating blend, and the last part faded imperceptibly into my own live crickets as I listened to it on a summer night. "Ingmar Bergman in Dub" blends trance into reggae for a particularly fascinating effect.

Down Memory Gap Lane is probably not the place to start if you're new to reggae, unless you also like hip-hop. If you like reggae, though, this is a very cool CD, and if -- like me -- you usually listen to roots, Dubchek can acquaint us with more recent developments in the genre. The ambient and trance elements make it stand out, and would be good choices for a party. This is a solid album, and I enjoyed it a lot.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 15 September 2001

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