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Kush Arora 

The Dread Bass Chronicles (Kush Arora Productions)

Wednesday, Apr 22 2009
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The emergence of Bay Area dubstep parties over the last couple of years illustrates the ever-expanding audience for music that combines elements of drum 'n' bass, breaks, dub, and dancehall. San Francisco's Surya Dub collective — a popular crew that includes producer Kush Arora — has played a key role in increasing the visibility of the dark, syncopated, rhythm-oriented genre.

Arora's latest release, The Dread Bass Chronicles, showcases the "dread bass" sound. The album is packed with deep, dubby low-end tones, Punjabi percussion and strings, punchy tempos, and futuristic dancehall MCs with decidedly aggressive deliveries. This isn't happy music. It feels raw, edgy, and hard, with the guest vocalists taking center stage throughout. Opening with the tough, head-nodding "Making Money" featuring MC Warrior Queen, the album goes for the rough edges with "Lost Control," MC Zulu's blistering vocals firing nonstop atop tightly wound bass, clicking percussion, and minor-key synth stabs. "By the Numbers" combines dancehall vocals with a stutter-step beat, while "The Truth" featuring Bongo Chilli offsets a dark dubstep pulse with fluttery, high-pitched Punjabi melodies.

The Dread Bass Chronicles isn't all dark and grimy. "Poison Pill" featuring MC Zulu drops a coy reference in the chorus to Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison." "People a Dead" featuring N4SA as MC takes a lighter approach by stressing intricate Indian strings, tabla, and flute. Overall, though, The Dread Bass Chronicles isn't for the weak. This is forceful, antagonistic music, seething through your speakers.

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Tim Pratt

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