Review: L.B. Dub Corp - Unknown Origin


The first time that I heard Luke Slater DJ was my first night at a Berghain Klubnacht. At the end of his set, when I was collapsed against the wall next to the DJ booth, sweaty, over-danced, sort-of in shock, he turned to me and said “How was that?” My racing mind failed me – I had been thrown into the deepest pool of techno I had faced to this point: a long set that pushed relentlessly through every barrier, through every desire, through every pill I had swallowed, ever. Nothing was left to be done. He had come from somewhere else to send the room deep into a blue haze of bodies and sweat and rhythm and pure energy. Or something.  I really didn't know what was happening.  I turned to him and said “You were fucking awesome.” I truly meant it, like I have meant little else. He was fucking awesome. Never before had such an intense waves of techno hit me so hard as at my first Klubnacht.  This wasn't just the perfect sound system, or the huge dark industrial hall in beloved Berlin, or the sense that I was playing in the most adult playground on earth.  It was also that Luke Slater was completely in tune with the minds of his crowd – he took them through this journey and sent them away enriched. At the end of his set I collapsed against the wall in awe of what he had just done to me. I wanted to know more about him.

The Klubnacht experience is not easily bottled. To further explore the mind of Mr Slater, subtler forms are necessary – for as great as his CLR podcast from a night in Fabric (London, UK) is, there is, as we all know, a massive experiential difference between atomising in a club to Planetary Assault System and strolling down King Street in Sydney with a recorded set in one's headphones, as pleasant as this experience is in my quotidian life.

Enter L.B. Dub Corp, and the new recording, 'Unknown Origin'. This is Slater out of the club and curled up on the sofa with you.

L.B. Dub Corp is one of the many recording names of Luke Slater, and 'Unknown Origin' takes forward the earlier 12" recording under this moniker, 'Take It Down (In Dub)' (Ostgut Ton, 2010). His point of departure has been to do the opposite of Planetary Assault System: take the music out of the extreme space of a club; give it a story; use different styles; use words and voices. The experience is not the totalising effect of which Slater has consistently proven himself to be the master when he makes the world his own with his powerful, muscular techno; rather it is very subtle, intelligent music that expands into the world modestly but with purpose (and there is a political purpose in some of these tracks). It is still danceable, but the dance does not leave one devastated, sliding down the concrete wall of a Berlin techno paradise. It is the pleasant dance of knowing that you are a part of something bigger and more connected. That, to me, says intelligent producing.

Some of the music is pure dub: such as the tight and nuanced “L.B.'s Dub” or “Ever and Forever”. Some of it goes back to imagined musical roots, such as “Nearly Africa”, which is a combination of African traditional vocals, a splash of bluesish piano and spoken words, calling on the listener to drift out of their hypnotic dance and “look to Africa”.

Sometimes these tracks are simply funny, like “Generation to Generation, with the bent sample: “It is uncool to wear shades after sunset, unless you should be wearing shades after sunset, in which case it is uncool to take them off”.

The most interesting track for me was one of the two collaborations with radical British poetic genius, Benjamin Zephaniah, whose Utopian prophecies on the track “I have a dream” are politically astute, parodic takes on contemporary British culture. Try this line: 

“I see thousands of muscular black men on Hampstead Heath, walking their poodles, and hundreds of black female formula one drivers racing around Birmingham in pursuit of a truly British way of life.”

Gender norms being challenged, gay bodies being celebrated, ethnicity being treated as a real factor in cultural change – all in one sentence that points some of the path for the salvation of the UK through social inclusivity, even if this dream is tongue in cheek.

As much as I love him, there simply isn't that kind of politicism in Jeff Mills' recordings – or any other techno guru's (and I don't think we can include DJ Deep's sampling of Martin Luther King's famous dream oration on his RA podcast as a serious intervention into the racial politics of contemporary Paris). And I was not expecting it to come from Luke Slater, either. When Zephaniah's silky voice says “Let me hear you say “Multiculture”. (Amen.) Let me hear you say “roti, roti”, we are hearing one of the finest observations in electronic music about the issue of cultural assimilation through a crass commodification that pervades Brtitish culture, which fails to address the ethnic diversity that underlies many of Britain's current social problems.

This is not the kind of dub where bitches and hoes are found objectified; Slater is no Russell Brand – he doesn't do slut shaming or anything pathetic like that. Rather, this is intelligent, political dub music. Multiculturalism is more than a varied diet of curry and shepherd's pie; and Luke Slater is more than simply a masterful techno DJ. It took a dub album by a techno superstar to throw the political power of the spoken word onto the socially-inclusive dance floor.  Think hard while you are doing that slow dub dance in your lounge room before you are ready for another Planetary Assault.

01. Take A Ride feat. Benjamin Zephaniah
02. Nearly Africa
03. Ever And Forever
04. L.B's Dub
05. No Trouble In Paradise
06. I Have A Dream feat. Benjamin Zephaniah
07. Turner's House
08. Generation To Generation
09. Any Time Will Be OK
10. Roller feat. Function