Just over a decade ago, the marijuana industry breathed a sigh of relief. Not necessarily hard hit, but certainly slightly worried at the unprecedented rise of ecstasy to near universal club-kid usage in the late '80s, those in the European herb professions must have smiled nervously as they watched the likes of Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead bring dub-heavy dance-floor riddims forward through clouds of green smoke and cast-off Rizla wrappers.
Basking in !K7's double-shot of Bristol nostalgia -- a Retrospective of producer duo Smith & Mighty, and a DJ Kicks mix-CD installment from Massive Attack-er Daddy G -- it feels time to rethink the American hipster dealer's financial reliance on white powder. Thick slabs of magnanimous dub, proto-drum and bass riddims, with smooth vocals and simple if powerful messages riding atop them; month-old-sock funk, cribbed from acid house's then-current adorations but with darker ambitions and deeper origins -- such are the sounds of the Bristol beginnings. Tricky was always bogged by adjectives like "apocalyptic," but that was merely a function of his influences: Daddy G's appropriation of Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time" as a deejay set starter, or Smith & Mighty's genocidal bass lines on "Down in Rwanda" -- these are straightforward revolutionary chunks of damnation funk. If Bristol's early '90s musical takeover was about replacing acid house's hedonistic optimism with the pesticide-tainted grasses of industrial decay, then Daddy G and Smith & Mighty, on these two releases, show where the city's barrels of DDT were stashed.
Daddy G's DJ Kicks continues one of the best mix series on the market with an almost chronological look at where Bristol came from. "Armagideon Time," Barrington Levy and a francophone cut of the international reggae smash "Non Non Non"; the Meters and Danny Krivit's extra-dark edit of Aretha's "Rock Steady"; Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" and the group's mixes of world-sound superstars Les Negresses Vertes and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Daddy G's record box is packed with deep, dark, evilly sexy cuts laced with PCP and formaldehyde. As a founder of Bristol's massively influential Wild Bunch Sound System, that record box had a profound impact on the way the city's musicians listened to music.
That included the likes of Smith & Mighty, although in the late '80s, when Bristol was starting to blow up, Smith & Mighty was already cutting records like "Anyone" and "Walk On By," a pair of dubby dance-floor versions of Burt Bacharach tunes. Listening back on them one after the other, it's not far from "Anyone" to "B-Line Fi Blow," Smith & Mighty's 2002 hit: speakerbox-blowing, needle-skipping sub-bass, tuff digital-ragga inspired beats -- OK, Jackie Jackson's smooth Bacharach is far from Niji's sing-jay skank, but it's all recognizably Smith & Mighty through two decades. Portishead's orchestral spy-trip-hop (see S&M's "Life Has a Way"), Tricky's nuclear fission (see "Down in Rwanda"), and contemporary dance-floor dubbers like Kruder and Dorfmeister are all audibly matched or presaged on Retrospective.
Shady characters in dark corners, funk 45s, industrial waste and industrial wastelands -- both of these discs are Northern-hemisphere dub at its finest, at once history lesson and fresh start.