// Powder Blue

Getting contemporary dub just right is such a fine art. There are near infinite ways dub has informed electronic music by this point in time, but by and large the principles of the Jamaican sound are ported out into a modern chassis. It’s genuinely exciting when someone manages to strike on an approach which faithfully communicates the earthly sonic of dub at its purest, while bringing something fresh and contemporary to the table. Quite what it takes to achieve that might be up for date – organic drums, analogue delays, noisy, hissing reverbs… the thing is, when it’s done right it might not even have any of the correct hallmarks and still sound utterly dub.

Zurich crew Comfortnoise – self-processed dub students – have made a strong case for being one of the most exciting prospects for those seeking a meaningful continuation of the dub tradition that feels roots without retreading old ground. Brittle drum machines and bongos interweave over a low and dynamic sub, plunging headfirst into the pool of soundsystem vitality and never coming up for air. 

Three records in, this EP by, aka Marius Neukom, presents the most expansive spread of the Comfortnoise sound to date. There’s a sharper focus – an implied tilt towards the DJ – in ‘Decoy’, which stomps along with a quasi-Sherwood-industrial snarl. Towering percussion and an abundance of dread space, and yet in the midst of what could be fairly considered a raw club belter, this sense of earthiness. The subby layer to the drums, the scratchy analogue blips, the groove, everything hunkering down to pound the ground.

There’s a bit more space for experimentation across six tracks – we get treated to the silver screen soundscape displacement of ‘Brainbridge’ and the outright ambience of ‘Cessation’ – accomplished in their own right albeit in the shadow of the heavier tracks. It’s hard to dull the brightness of a track like ‘Milan’, using a sampled organ stab which manages to communicate the same feeling you might get from a classic reggae organ lick, but sounding utterly blown out and distorted as though beamed in from a fast-decaying VHS.

Smart but rough, inventive but meditative – this is exactly what dub should be like in 2021.