Calamalka: Shredders Dub
Plug Research

Shredders Dub clearly shows that Vancouverite Michael Campitelli (aka Calamalka) has ingested his fair share of Jamaican dub from masters like King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry and, while dub may be the predominating style, he proves himself a deft hand at funk, hip-hop, and dancehall grooves too. That Campitelli has worked as a drummer and bassist for artists like Kinni Starr, Lux, and Nefro doesn't surprise either when the drums are mixed so prominently. On the one hand, that's a good thing, as his playing is strong enough to withstand that scrutiny. Whether he's offering thunderous drum cracks (“Hear The Most”), funk patterns with loud snare splats (“Auterzonik”), dub beats and hi-hat triplets (“Lighting Rigg”), or even adding subtle “Funky Drummer” stylings (“Bumpea”), his drumming prowess is never in question. Interestingly, the growling funk bass, slamming beats, and simple organ accents in “Chassi” could even pass for an Agharta excerpt (minus Miles's trumpet).

Unfortunately, this emphasis also embodies the album's major weakness: its too-great reliance on groove at the expense of melody and composition. Like a lot of tracks, “Tabla Purists” is kicked along by loud drum thwacks and atmospheric squeals but is finally more a repetitive mood piece that rides out its groove until the end. So while requisite dub ingredients—nimble bass lines, echo effects, swaying rhythms, spacey synth dribbles—add the necessary spice, they don't transform the pieces into memorable compositions. There's a theme of sorts snaking its way through the background in the buoyant “Ackee,” for example, but it's just not memorable enough to register as a full-fledged melody. Ultimately, Calamalka's tracks seem more like powerful, inspired jams than fully-composed pieces, and the listener becomes wearied by the excessive fixation on beat structures before the disc ends.

Shredders Dub is credible enough for a debut, but to really impress Campitelli has to do more than just conjure deep grooves. After all, that's a feat that can be duplicated by others, especially when the dub template is so thoroughly defined. To elevate his music to the next level, he must translate that style into something unique and enliven his music with a more distinctive melodic dimension than what's displayed here. A good model might be Just Landed by Burnt Friedman and the Nu Dub Players, specifically tracks like “Cassock Attack” and “Worldwide Watchdog Peepshow” where Friedman pairs deep grooves with keyboard themes that haunt you long after the disc ends. Consider also tracks like “King In My Empire” and “Best Friend” from Rhythm & Sound with the Artists where stunning minimal grooves support the singers' affecting vocal melodies; by comparison, vocalist Lo-Prophet is given a dearth of melodic material to work with on “Reliable I.” A promising debut, then, from Calamalka but an imperfect one.

September 2004