Panda Dub – Shapes and Shadows

Panda Dub

A lot of what you find filed under dub these days bears little resemblance to the Jamaican pioneers of the 1960s. Those early geniuses – King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry and the rest – were tasked with producing reggae single B-sides as cheaply as possible. In the process they invented a new genre to which today’s purveyors of EDM owe a great debt.

Dub’s journey from spin-off to global phenomenon has seen the format grow less and less clearly defined. Some purists decry its present-day amorphous nature. But it’s hard to argue that the music wasn’t well-suited to open, free interpretation right from the start.

Just the same, it’s a treat to hear a new recording so respectful of the music’s history. French-export Panda Dub’s new disc Shapes and Shadows is firmly rooted in the best the tradition has to offer. The rhythms are banging. Deep and full of gritty texture. You’ll find yourself pushing the volume up repeatedly over the course of the album.

Not that this is a throwback. Panda Dub is very much a new music artist. And a successful one at that. He first gained attention with 2007’s “Born 2 Dub.” His Black Bamboo EP three years later was a smash, earning more than 20,000 downloads.

Panda Dub strings together electronic beats, a United Nations of traditional music samples and enough studio wizardry to satisfy even the most tired ears. “Bad Weather” weds oud strumming with scratching and a southern U.S. spoken word sample. A match made in heaven, obviously.

For all the novelty this album offers, there remains a strong club sensibility on all 10 tracks. The album engages without challenging. That’s not a criticism. Few artists can pull together this many disparate sounds and still manage to keep your head nodding for the full 45 minutes.

Kevin Press

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