Album Review: Dub Inc - Futur
by Steve Topple
2019 seems a lifetime ago, with the small matter of a global pandemic compounding that vibe. But it’s also the time that’s passed since Dub Inc’s last studio album – and now the group is back with a fresh release.
Futur sees Dub Inc take stock of the past three years across 15 tracks. Predominantly in French, it would be ignorant of an English speaking only writer to use Google translate to try and unpick all the lyrical content. But suffice to say, Dub Inc has once again delivered an album filled with political and social narratives. The press release said of the lyrical content that:
“The band transcend their concerns about the future, transforming them into hope - that of seeing individuals finally unite and build a world that is respectful of everyone.
With Futur, Dub Inc focus on their fundamentals: the need for collective strength, diversity, respect for the past and identities, and the joy of being together. Here, however, the tone is more urgent. Faced with climate change, geopolitical issues, the social difficulties that our societies are experiencing, time is running out. We can no longer wait: acting, each at their own level, is not only possible, but essential”.
Across the album, the staple of Hakim "Bouchkour" Méridja’s sharp, dextrous tenor with his impressive riffs and runs contrasting with Aurélien "Komlan" Zohou’s gruff, rasping and resonant bass-heavy singjay and vocal is as glorious as ever. Chris Gehringer is the mastering maestro of choice at the minute (having done the work on Protoje’s Third Time’s The Charm) – and here, the sound is rich and equalised across the album, with clever focus on the Dub elements like the bass and synths, while ensuring balance is kept.
Then, there’s the music – which is, as expected, delicious: perfect Jamaican-influenced, European-enhanced Roots. The overriding influences are EDM and Synthwave, but with something more guitar-led as well as nods to the Revival movement across some Hip Hop-led drum arrangement – all playing musical homage to the group’s geographical and cultural roots.
Allons Leur Dire (Let’s Tell Them) with its Folk-Rock opening quickly leads into that Jérémie Grégeois guitar-led, driving Roots sound Dub Inc do so beautifully: complex and heavily instrumentally layered, but with pleasing Folk-Rock breaks and Moritz "DaBaron" Von Korff’s imposing bass, it’s pacey Rock-tinged Roots at its finest.
Nos Héros (Our Heroes) featuring Balik hones in on the resurgence in 80s Synthwave influence present recently, opening with some nice horn synths – before those rich Roots vibes kick in again, but with a focus more on the lower Hz instrumentation here. Tour De Monde (World Tour) does similar but with distinctly Dub synths and engineering, a slowing of the pace, dominant kick and the introduction of a pleasing electric organ to the fore. It makes for a more unsettling and ominous feeling than its predecessors – and add in Didier Bolay’s trumpet and trombone and Guillaume “Stepper” Briard’s sax and you have a brooding track which lingers in the memory.
Il Est Temps (It’s Time) featuring Taïro brings more Synthwave vibes back again but here more in heavy EDM territory – overwhelming the Roots elements brilliantly well. Von Korff’s bass is super-heavy, coupled with some dramatic synths, vocoder, heavy reverb and Bolay and Briard’s imposing horns with their synth cousins. Méridja and Zohou’s vocal fire at an impressively rapid pace, too – and the whole thing is almost dystopian in flavour. Sheer class.
Then, Peu Importe (No Matter) winds the sound back to Roots again – but with some well-placed Dub breaks, a forward-moving bass and a gorgeous, lilting acoustic guitar line from Grégeois. Mélodie Rebelle (Rebel Melody) brings back some Synthwave influences but it’s grander than that – with interesting minor key chord progressions, a particularly intricate arrangement in terms of the peaking and troughing of instrumentation and a central performance from Zohou which is urgent and forthright. But then, Terre Promise (Promised Land) returns Futur to guitar-led Roots with an attractive bridge that builds with a crescendo and a decent string arrangement.
Enter Italy’s finest Alborosie to join Dub Inc on Bad Boy – a pacey, Roots track (with a cleverly used interpolation of the Diana King standard, Shy Guy) that’s more stripped-back than what came before it, but that’s to its credit. Because the arrangement allows the smart synths and vocalists shine – alongside yet more tasty breaks. From Italy to Algeria, and group Democratoz join Futur on Mazal. It’s fantastic Roots-meets-North African music, with a superb level of attention of detail in combining the two musical cultures: Roots-heavy bubble rhythms and skanking guitars meet plenty of blue notes, pattering drums and Alaoua Idir’s gorgeous mandole – with the signature Synthwave touches thrown in.
Puzzle sees more of Allons Leur Dire’s Folk-Rock sensibilities return, with lilting guitars complementing Zohou’s rich and moving vocal extremely well. But – Roots doesn’t feature at all. There’s no move into the genre, leaving the track purely guitar and vocal-led – which is a really pleasant surprise, and allows Zohou to fully show his vocal and interpretative skill.
Limites (Limits) sees the Roots’ vibes return, with some pleasing ‘other room’ vocal engineering and an extremely attractive main melody. It’s lighter-touch Roots compared to much of Futur, with the prominence of the lower Hz instruments wound-back across much of the track, until the bridge then chorus bring them to the fore. The inclusion of occasional Dub engineering (note the very rhythmical reverb) is too well-placed – and it’s all very attractive and emotive.
Diamant (Diamond) once more sees Futur abandon the Roots vibes – here, in favour of something almost AfroDancehall-meets-soulful Folk. There’s that stuttering AfroDancehall clave across the chorus but split across instrumentation, coupled with winding electric piano runs – juxtaposed with the slower verses where lilting guitars take the lead (but with the AfroDancehall rhythm pared-back). It’s attractive and inventive in equal measure.
Jamais Seul (Never Alone) is more forthright Roots, but here with a focus on a bending, rasping electric guitar line and an electric organ filled with vibrato. Then, Doctor Dancehall does what it says on the tin – but with a twist. It’s very 80s throwback: the hard clave isn’t really used apart from the chorus, and the influence of the classic synths works really well. But you also have a string arrangement seen in more modern Dancehall – and overall, the effect is an in-your-face ride.
Futur closes with People Of The World featuring the always-excellent Kumar. It’s glorious, with a traditional African opening of chanting djembe and kette accompanied by a lilting piano line and some beautiful chord progressions. Then, the Roots kicks in with its bubble rhythm, wah-wah’d guitar and a winding bassline. There’s something haunting about the track, which is probably the idea – and it makes a fitting closing for the album.
Overall, Futur is a very pleasing offering from Dub Inc and all involved. Passionate perfection both musically and in the performances, the sound is rich and heady with the EDM/synth elements bringing added attractiveness. It also reeks of quality and class and sits among the stronger releases this year.
Dub Inc - Futur
DIGITAL RELEASE / CD [Diversité]
Release date: 09/30/2022
01. Allons Leur Dire
02. Nos Héros feat. Balik
03. Tour De Monde
04. Il Est Temps feat. Taïro
05. Peu Importe
06. Mélodie Rebelle
07. Terre Promise
08. Bad Boy feat. Alborosie
09. Mazal feat. Democratoz
13. Jamais Seul
14. Doctor Dancehall
15. People Of The World feat. Kumar