DJ Madd: Interstellar Dub / Spook Dub
ZamZam Sounds

Danny Scrilla: Higher Plane / Maroon
ZamZam Sounds

One of the things I admire so much about ZamZam Sounds is that it champions the work of innovative new producers whilst staying true to its dubwise mission. In the material they produce for the label, the artists, too, show that they share ZamZam's ethos in the way they honour dub tradition yet at the same time subtly push at its boundaries with new ideas and treatments. The imprint's twenty-ninth and thirtieth releases instantiate the principle in compelling manner, though few listeners will spend little time musing upon it when tunes of such physical potency fill the air. As always, the releases, limited to 800 copies apiece, are in the seven-inch vinyl format, packaged in enticing sleeves, and unavailable in anything but physical form. Each release is only about eight minutes total in length, but with the grooves so enticing you'll probably put them on repeat play anyway.

Munich-based Danny Scrilla (born Danny Pirkl), whose material has appeared on Civil Music and Om Unit's Cosmic Bridge imprint (which itself says much about the quality of Scrilla's material), is up first. His productions exemplify in fabulous manner the aforementioned principle in the way they merge traditional dub elements with ones drawn from genres such as jungle and house—not that you'll hear a whole lot of the latter in the tracks featured here. A solo flute melody pulls you immediately into “Higher Plane,” and the addition of a bone-dry bass pulse and melodica-styled flutter only makes the ride more enjoyable. Even though the tune's a mere four minutes long, the gradual accretion of elements acts as a slow-burn, with the full riddim only coming to fruition halfway through—a restrained yet nevertheless seductive production that proves that just as much interest can be generated when a producer opts for nuance rather than overstatement. Less ethereal and earthier by comparison, the B-side's “Maroon” rolls out a deliciously skanky groove that Scrilla coyly punctuates with ghostly saxophone riffs and a funky bass line so deep and primal it's like a singular distillation of the dub form.

A fine complement to Scrilla's is the two-tracker by DJ Madd (real name Peter Simon), his second outing on ZamZam. Similar to Scrilla, Simon's material has appeared on Cosmic Bridge in addition to Moonshine, Black Box, and his own Roots & Future imprint. In keeping with its title, “Interstellar Dub” casts its gaze to the stars, but it's the cut's snaking bass line that your ear'll be drawn to above all else, even if the haunting synth line and ricocheting percussion effects are just as mesmerizing. A gorgeous bass-and-drum combination grounds whatever interplanetary inclinations Simon's keen on pursuing in this four-minute master class in dubwise seduction. The also aptly named “Spook Dub” wastes no time plunging the listener into a dread-filled zone rife with spooky chords and cut-throat snare strikes, but the mood is ultimately more playful than fear-inducing. Like the other three cuts on the producers' singles, it's material of high quality yet a crowd-pleaser, too.

September 2015