Red Bull Music Academy presents Pass The Gates: NYC In Dub

It might be more than 40 years since Lee Perry built an unassuming studio called The Black Ark in the Washington Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, and his brother-in-mind King Tubby worked his magic on a couple of multi-track tapes. But their echoes still resonate to this day. From your favorite woozy indie pop combo to the countless bedroom producers exploring the limits of bass from London to LA, dub still stands as one of the main influences of today’s dance and pop music. To celebrate this heritage, the Red Bull Music Academy invited some of those artists who carry the torch that Perry and Tubby once ignited to perform in a truly unique setting. Expect double-trouble pairings, heavenly harmonies in surround sound, and mixing board magic live on stage. Acts on the bill include dubwise devastators such as the mighty Adrian Sherwood; Jamaica’s greatest vocal group of all time, The Congos, Future Times’ Maxmillion Dunbar and Protect-U; DIY electronic dubbers Peaking Lights; and none other than his majesty, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself backed by Subatomic Sound System. A long night on the echo beach!

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Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

Much has been written about this iconoclastic riddim maverick, whose career has been as colorful and varied as his wardrobe. Initially causing widespread chaos at Coxsone Dodd’s sound, and then Joe Gibbs’ sound through the ’60s, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry found his feet with his label Upsetter and set about delivering a defining reggae template to the world. In the ’70s Perry explored his own production vision even further with his Black Ark studio, and alongside other producers like King Tubby, Keith Hudson, and Errol Thompson, pioneered a new dub sound. Little could Perry have predicted the impact his limited 300-pressing Blackboard Jungle Dub LP would have, going on to inspire practically every strain of musical variation since, from hip hop to jungle, dubstep to techno, post-punk to house. Perry’s legacy just gets bigger and bigger, and even now in his 70s, he is still recording and touring, recently teaming up with iconic ambient house duo the Orb for an LP.

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Subatomic Sound System

NYC’s Subatomic Sound System is a tightrope between the reggae roots of dub and the future of bass music. After collaborating with Dubblestandart in 2008 to produce Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s first dubstep tracks, numerous projects followed; Subatomic Sound System, with a unique blend of live instruments and electronics, has become Scratch’s go-to band for reinventing the Black Ark vibes on recent tours, including his 2013 Coachella appearances. Subatomic Sound System performs as either a DJ, live electronic act, or complete band and is spearheaded by Emch, founder of Dub Champions Festival and the Subatomic Sound label, producer, DJ, musician, Brooklyn Radio host, label manager for Kingston-based People’s Records JA, Dubspot music instructor, and promoter. Subatomic Sound System productions, remixes, and releases include collaborations with icons like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Elephant Man, filmmaker David Lynch, Anthony B, and U-Roy, as well as next-generation pioneers like Jahdan Blakkamoore, Stereotyp, Frikstailers, Liondub, and many more.

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Adrian Sherwood

For more than three decades, Adrian Sherwood has probably been Britain’s finest and most consistently groundbreaking producer. He has wrought his wizardly magic upon such internationally acclaimed artists as Blur, Nine Inch Nails, Sinead O’Connor, the Cure, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, as well as coined countless mind-melting sounds with Tackhead and Mark Stewart, both of whose influences are ongoing and, to this day, omnipresent. And yet, Sherwood is neither a household name nor an instantly recognizable face; he prefers to operate in the shadows. Largely left to his own devices, he has built up a colossal body of work, whose staggering diversity—after launching off from reggae and dub, he duly innovated with electro, industrial noise, various world musics, and much else besides—somehow never eclipsed his own identity, nor diluted his unique bass-quakin’ sound. In 2011 he marked the 30th anniversary of his pioneering indie label, On-U Sound, a name which over the years has become a byword for experimentalism, always brazen and in tune with the cutting edge.

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The Congos

The Congos formed as a vocal duo consisting of Ashanti Roy Johnson (tenor) and Cedric Myton (falsetto), later becoming a trio with the addition of Watty Burnett (baritone). They are principally known for the legendarily slept-on Heart of the Congos album recorded with studio wizard Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at the Black Ark in 1977. Now considered one of the classic roots recordings, the album was turned down by Island Records and underwent a series of setbacks, which prevented it from reaching the audience it deserved. Reissued by the prolific Blood and Fire label a few years ago, Heart of the Congos is considered by many as strong an album as such seminal reggae recordings as Bob Marley And the Wailers’ Natty Dread, Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, and the Mighty Diamonds’ Right Time. In 2006 Blood and Fire also released Fisherman Style, an album built on versions of their classic track “Fisherman,” and in 2012 the Congos linked up with Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras to record the Icon Give Thank LP.

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Sun Araw

“Psychedelic” is a word that has followed Cameron Stallones around, as it’s a valid aesthetic description of both Magic Lantern, the rock band he first found success with, and his solo project Sun Araw. While his first releases with Magic Lantern have since become certified collector’s items, Sun Araw started with demos initially intended for Magic Lantern but were eventually released as the first Sun Araw LP The Phynx. Highly experimental and conceptual, the album was deemed groundbreaking for its psychedelic interpretation of a diverse range of source material. It led to a string of EPs and albums for stalwart labels like Not Not Fun and Drag City, as well as collaborations with Pocahaunted, MatthewDavid, and most recently M. Geddes Gengras and the Congos. Intent on keeping total creative control over all aspects of his music, liner notes, artwork, and direction of his videos, Cameron founded his own Sun Ark label in 2011.

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M. Geddes Gengras and The Raw Power Band

M. Geddes Gengras loves synthesizers in a way that most ordinary people can’t understand. He’s made numerous cassettes that might make you a believer, though. His time in the Los Angeles underground has been time well spent. His work with Not Not Fun’s Robedoor and psychedelic dronesters Pocahaunted allowed him to be uniquely qualified when the RVNG Intl. label called up and asked him to go to Jamaica with Sun Araw to collaborate with legendary reggae group the Congos. That album has made Gengras a household name among fans of underground modern experimental dub. In addition to his work as a musician, Gengras also runs Peccant Tapes and the mixing/mastering service Green Machine Sound Solutions.

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Peaking Lights

Peaking Lights are the husband-and-wife duo Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis. Since relocating from California’s Bay Area to a barn house in rural Wisconsin, the pair have created their own distinctive sound using Aaron’s home-built synths, effects units, and rhythm machines. Mixing elements of dub and psych rock with synth pop and cosmic disco, Peaking Lights produce songs that are sweetly smooth yet abstract and haunting. In 2009 their debut album Imaginary Falcons appeared on the Night People label and quickly gained critical praise, but it was the followup, 936 on Not Not Fun, that really brought Peaking Lights into the red. Their unique mix of lo-fi, dubbed out electronics, psychedelic melodies, and punky female vocals saw its continuation on 2012’s Lucifer record, which the duo released via the indie powerhouse Mexican Summer.

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Future Times

This Washington, D.C.-based label run by Maxmillion Dunbar and Mike Petillo first made an impact in 2008 with Max’s spacey-beat 7" “Outrageous Soulz” coming gloriously out of nowhere. Since then the label has given a platform to the sounds of Max’s and Ari G’s cosmically minded duo Beautiful Swimmers, as well as Chicago’s Slava, and the spiritual psych-house project Protect-U. But like any good label, the aesthetics go much deeper than just uniquely creative music. Scroll through their website and you’ll find a patchwork of influences, from Carl Sagan and James Stinson to Silver Surfer and Omar S. They encapsulate all that’s good about today’s Internet age—if you’re open to positive influence, you can find it anywhere. Cosmic babies and humpback whales agree: things will be better in future times.

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Julien Love

Born in South Africa and raised in Brisbane, Australia, Julien Love has been steadily honing his craft as a DJ and producer over the past 15 years. Julien’s passion for visual art and music began with the mid-’90s Demoscene, which led to him sampling records and writing .MOD files with 8-bit tracker software. The rest of his musical DNA is comprised of sleepless nights filled with synthesizers and an insatiable addiction to B-movies. Despite moving to Melbourne, Julien’s musical ambitions weren’t deterred, and it wasn’t long before he was inducted into the scene by the Late Show crew from the city’s infamous, round-the-clock club Revolver. He’s currently working on EPs for local label M-Division as well as Must Have Records out of Virginia, USA, exploring a blend of funk, electro soul, and deep house that he’s fine-tuned over the years via his restless crate digging and personal edits.

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