With Absolute Dissent and MMXII arriving in 2010 and 2012 respectively naturally fans of Killing Joke are keeping ears to the ground in the hope of news concerning a new 2014 studio album. We do however know that nothing should be taken for granted as far as the band are concerned and we could be waiting some time for anything to happen on this front. However there is plenty of other stuff to keep us occupied at the moment and we have the ‘Down By The River’ double live album keeping us happy until the next round of gigs and lead singer Jaz Coleman has also released his classical music piece ‘Symphony Number 2’ and first book ‘Letters From Cytheria.’ From what I have heard of the book it’s a bit of an intellectual feast and is probably not for those looking for something that’s not going to both explode and expand the mind.
Slightly less imposing but no less weighty is new triple album ‘In Dub’ Killing Joke were always inspired by the old punky reggae parties organised by the likes of Don Letts around Ladbroke Grove (the ghosts of which are all that remain) and with Youth at the controls at his Butterfly Studio have experimented heavily with dub, ambient music and trance. Anyone who used to collect the CD singles around the Pandemonium and Democracy era will have encountered various mixes in this format and indeed a couple are included here. Most of this is all new material though and spans a whopping 3 hours-worth of music divided into 28 tracks across three discs!
The first disc brings Babylon to the people and is entitled ‘Apocalypse Dancehall’ which is entirely appropriate and a speaker shaking bass heavy listening experience. The roots of the songs are clear and present but they have been lovingly reconstructed here and you may find singers mc-ing over the top as on the first mix of ‘This World Hell’ with Jaz’s stadium etched shouts left roaring occasionally in the background. I got the feeling straight away that this has been a work of love and one that Youth and co have had great enjoyment putting together. The first disc alone shows the time scale involved going back to ‘Eighties’ taking in anthems such as ‘Love Like Blood’ and ‘Money Is Not Our God’ and into a still incredibly heartfelt ‘The Raven King’ and beyond. You certainly should not go into this looking for simple similar mixes of your favourites. ‘Money Is Not Our Good’ as an example is turned completely on its head with the MC taking over and really giving it the bounce around treatment. It’s a heavy, heady disc that pumps it out like a hot day at a free festival (remember them) and like these it really is full of spirit, partying till dawn or at least till the pigs come round and break it up. The one thing I will say is this is not for MP3 consumption on tinny PC speakers but CD or Vinyl through a good sound-system. If you too guessed at which songs from the group’s career are most likely to suit this style you would no doubt correctly have ‘Ghosts Of Ladbroke Grove’ in there and the porTobEllo dUb quintessentially sums up the whole project as far as I am concerned. Turn it up, “Come Together” and just let it shake, rattle and roll through you and anyone else in the immediate vicinity! One maybe not as expected is ‘Labyrinth’ but I completely love the way they have transcended culturist theme here morphing the arcane Egyptian twists and turns into a more Rastafarian climate. It’s also great hearing unreleased Absolute Dissent session track Sixth Sun included here too.
Entitled Rockers Retroactive the second disc embraces the more ambient end of things with floating anarchy at its core as these more lengthy mixes embrace Orb like textures. Keen followers of the band will be quick to recognise the likes of ‘Requiem A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea Mix’ from the aforementioned singles and be prepared to embark on a journey where tribal meets trance head on. There are not surprisingly several cuts from Pandemonium including the song itself and Exorcism the former providing a particularly bass heavy dub rumble and the latter really taking a tripped out route away from the recognisable sound of the original. Newer songs such as ‘Primobile’ hazily drift by sounding like a mix off between The Orb and The KLF and The Orb get in on the act themselves facing off with Youth on the ever reliable European Super State. Probably the favourite here as far as I am concerned is that magical occult sounding keyboard sound sparkling out of the smoky ether of ‘Tomorrows World,’ taking us right back to the mists of time in the process. ‘Another Cult Goes Down’ is another rare one from the vaults that proves a worthy and unexpected addition here and this disc is most definitely the chill out / come down one of the three.
The third disc comprises of ‘Bonus Tracks’ some of which have elements of the last couple of discs but others which do things a bit differently and would not really have fitted in on either.. Pole Shift immediately sends shivers down the spine with its haunting refrain and then pumps it out as it pounds away far louder and more in the face than anything on the disc before, snapping you right back into the zone. Proving its power as a favourite new track and totally relevant with its message ‘European Super State’ gets another two mash ups as does In Cytheria. Each mix is completely different though so it’s no case of overkill in the slightest as the sound manipulators get their claws, quirks and nuances into the tracks. The Banda Remix of In Cytheria stands out due to fast acoustic guitar and Jaz’s vocals taking over from the more dub heavy stuff going on elsewhere. A couple of familiar numbers such as Nine Inch Nails Democracy mix and Spiral Tribes one of Change put in an appearance, I fondly remember the impact that adding rave elements to the latter had at the time, ruffling a fair few feathers amongst the fans. A short, sharp and crunchy Follow The Leaders fits in neatly and also going way back sees an apparently ultra-rare last laugh mix of Requiem which unfortunately is just a bit too plod happy for its own good. Finishing it all off is the oddly entitled Killer Dub aka Bread And Jam 1979, which really reminds me of the time sounding like the band have been listening to The Police classic Walking On The Moon, released that very year and providing a synonymous sound of the times.
Well there’s no shortage of material to be discovered here and most of it is new and unheard making this an essential purchase for fans of Killing Joke as well as those into post punk, dub beats and all sorts of other sounds of the seventies and beyond. I reckon from choice it’s going to be the first disc that gets the most plays from me but the others won’t be far behind.
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)