Various Artists - Bass Culture

Four new compilations
Various Artists - Bass Culture
For a musical culture so fast-paced and nebulous, fans of Jamaican music are surprisingly well served on the reissue front. So when four compilations (double disc, no less) drop through the Clash letterbox they are greeted with no small degree of cynicism. Within one play, though, all is forgiven. ‘Bass Culture’ is a simply essential series which acts as an introduction to the wonders of the soundsystem without retreading old ground. Containing rarities galore, the series skips across the decades, building up a superb cross-section of musical exploration.

Ska compilation ‘This Town Is Too Hot’ bristles with energy, with pioneers such as Baba Brooks and Don Drummond leading the way. It’s the sound of an island gaining its independence, and working out exactly what it means to be Jamaican. Reggae compilation ‘Boss Sounds’ fixates on the ruff ‘n’ tuff element, gradually seguing into the spiritual ethics of what would become known as roots. The infinite universe of dub is contained on two discs, with ‘When Reggae Was King’ matching classic artists (Bob Marley, Dillinger) with lesser known talent. Finally ‘Mash You Down’ charts the emergence of dancehall as an art form, moving from those early toasting cuts to the first touches of digital. Ultimately, ‘Bass Culture’ isn’t perfect - no cross-section of Jamaican culture could or should be - but it’s a hell of a testament to the universal power of bass.

9/10

Words by ROBIN MURRAY

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