Nick Page aka Dubulah, formerly of Transglobal Underground and Steel Pulse, first travelled to Ethiopia in 2006 to collaborate with local musicians and explore traditional music styles. Page managed to assemble a talented group of artists; Dub Colossus was born. This second album sees the collective come of age with a unique and unpredictable fusion of traditional reggae roots, Ethiopian jazz, middle-eastern mysticism and afro-beat.
Coming from the Real World label, it’s no surprise that this album is well produced and with high ambitions. Taking Ethiopia as its base camp, it avoids cliché and focuses on the wider, more extraordinary musical styles from the continent. At a time when the world’s eyes are focused on the events of the Arab Spring, the North African/Middle Eastern influence seems especially poignant.
The confident set regularly blends its styles into an exotic mix. One moment there’s echoes of Miles Davis‘ Bitches Brew, next Tinariwen‘s raw desert blues and more obviously the huge success that the Ethiopiques label has had on the world music scene. The album is steeped in collaboration and what it lacks in the way of ear-worms it makes up for in skilled jamming. Such musicianship hints that that the live Dub Colossus experience will be a much hotter ticket.
Where the album really dazzles is in the vocals, which are otherworldly and shimmer like a distant desert mirage, but considering the epic ambitions of the project, it’s no surprise that the album could do with losing a little of its weight. Ironically when you consider the promise in the band’s title, it’s the album’s reggae cuts that impress the least; In a collection streaming with invention it seems strange to offer up another Uptown Top Ranking cover, even if a new spin is added to the classic. The geographical focus seems to become blurred by shifting halfway across the world to Jamaica. Elsewhere the track Kiratu seems too steeped in Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme to be taken seriously.
This is a sturdy, functional and impressive collection that achieves its goals, but is ultimately missing any outstanding “wow” moments and arguably doesn’t have the crossover potential that it deserves. Yet despite its occasional flaws, this journey through the looking glass is worth taking at least once; the ambition may be colossal, but with a little more restraint and rawness it could have been truly titanic.