Undefined // Defined Riddim
Before forming Undefined, Kazuhiro Sahara was in The Heavymanners and Ohkuma played drums for Soul Dimension – groups deeply dedicated to the craft of Jamaican dubwise music. However, the more traditional stance of those bands seems to have been a bit constrictive for Sahara and Okhuma, as they broke away towards a more experimental approach with the striking After Effect / Quiet Flame 7” on their Newdubhall label in 2017. It made a little splash on distant shores thanks to the conviction they took into the production, following it up with a collaboration with Kazufumi Kodama and then dropping a single on ZamZam Sounds. Aligning with the Portland-based dub adventurers tells you all you need to know about Undefined’s approach to modern dub.
There’s a strange dichotomy in dub music between the formula of the music and its inherent space for exploration. Traditional conservatism can come off as insipid imitation, and yet the looming tradition of dub does demand certain stylistic and sonic tropes. Sahara and Okhuma seem to understand this conflict and navigate it instinctively on their debut album, which lands on ZamZam sister label Khaliphonic. ‘After Effect’ makes a welcome return here, sounding positively avant garde in its sparse soundfield, but the particular ripple of the delay tails and spring reverb splashes ground the music in time-honoured dub.
The duo sound utterly free as they touch on stripped-down dub techno, sprightlier steppas and even lay down a subtly swinging riddim for Rider Shafique. Shafique’s world-weary flow sounds more downcast than usual for the UK MC, but Undefined build up a rolling framework in which Okhuma’s drumming really comes to the fore. In these peaks, you recognise where he’s exercised restraint elsewhere on the record, and restraint is undoubtedly a key in this and any dub record worth its salt. By arcing the energy and experimentation, they’ve crafted a fully-formed listening experience which helps give each track its own space to breathe – something often lost in the traditional rigour of so many dub albums.