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Richard Youngs – Primary Concrete Attack

Fourth Dimension

Richard Youngs - Primary Concrete AttackWhen invited by Fourth Dimension man Richo to do something outside the ordinary, Richard Youngs accepted the challenge of making a dub album from the perspective of someone who doesn’t like reggae. So, with the aid of boxes of tricks borrowed from occasional collaborator Luke Fowler, he set off on an eight track odyssey into space echoes and spring reverberations to produce Primary Concrete Attack.

The most obvious thing encountered on first listening to the record is that this is not a dub reggae album by any stretch of the imagination; there’s frequently no drums to speak of and while there’s plenty of low end, what rhythms there are may either be more imaginary than intended, or so deformed as to hardly qualify. As the title hints, what emerges here is an album which draws more on musique concrète that it takes inspiration from the dancehall diasporas of Kingston, London or Brooklyn, though Youngs nods to the proprieties by including a notionally dub mix of a track from his recent Calmont Breakdown album as “Calmont Dub.” Cymbal hits shimmer through reverbs and echoes; drum machines rattle and bass pulses throb; but no-one’s going to be stepping out and shaking their thing to the music here anytime soon. But that’s often been the case with a lot of dub, whether at the experimental end of Seventies Jamaican dub from the likes of Lee Perry and King Tubby, at the controls of Adrian Sherwood, digitally-produced in a Swedish scrapyard by the likes of Digi-dub and their Butoh soundtrack Scrap Bodies, or some of Ekoplekz‘s similarly challenging electronic excursions.

When Youngs sings, it’s in a curiously affected version of soulfulness over a particularly hefty low end rumble on “Bandits;” it’s here that there are the vaguest of similarities with one of Sherwood’s ON-U Sound crew’s more bizarre projects, The Missing Brazilians and their extreme, distended take on industrial dub. But Youngs really, truly isn’t trying to make a reggae record; it’s more like he’s taking the tools and some of the tropes on board but is determinedly pushing against the form as hard as he possibly can. The squelchy splat-beats of “Cosmic Storm Over New Energies 1 to 7” lurches out of the gate like a heavily-medicated techno casualty stumbling into the electric fug of a warehouse rave under the influence of every mind-altering, body-twitching substance available to humanity (and probably a few yet to be synthesized). As the track progresses through a slurried tour de force of dance music gone horribly, beautifully wrong, percussive hits and trails give the barest nod to dub’s disorienting spatial FX; instead, the queasiness is spread throughout, murkily overwhelming everything until  Youngs has turned the idea of dub production comprehensively inside down and upside out.

The idea that an unwary Trustafarian is going to sit down and chill out to Primary Concrete Attack with a large one under their Bob Marley posters is quite amusing to imagine; but equally it’s entirely possible to envisage the more adventurous stoner getting well and truly blasted by Youngs’ increasingly divergent conception of the the form. But it’s not necessary to be under the influence of anything to be slightly warped by the experience of listening to this album — Youngs is a past master of the weirdly wonderful approach to electronic music, and here he has stepped well and truly off the map once again.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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