Seemingly all-knowing, all-seeing search engines can mislead one to trust that if Google doesn’t turn it up, it don´t exist. Of course we know this to be untrue. Still, it strikes me as odd that I can only find one, single review of Umberto Echo´s shiny, joyful, early 2013 release Elevator Dubs anywhere online. Of course, there are still other resources out there – perhaps it is all over print media or handmade fanzines or in foreign language press my searches can´t or won´t capture. Either way, this meager presence is hardly commensurate with the album´s stylish, hybrid achievement.
Maybe it´s the title. Maybe everyone expected something ambient. Couldn’t be more different – Elevator Dubs grabs your attention from the opening bars and marches the parade along at some pace for its full, fifty-seven minute length. Well, maybe fifty-two and a half (see below, about the closing track). Slick, hard dubbed jazz-reggae, masterminded by German producer Umberto Echo, aka Munich´s Philipp Winter, much admired for production and/or remix work for the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim, Tack Head, Steel Pulse, Josh Roseman, Sly & Robbie, and many, many more, while going public himself with only a few albums and compilation contributions.
With such a thick Rolodex, he has had no trouble assembling a massive cast of high-profile, talented (in a few cases downright legendary) singers and players to help him realize this fast-paced, world-travelling project, quick right out of the gate covering Ernest Ranglin‘s “Surfin'”, featuring the mesmerizing intertwining of melodica and muted trumpet, followed immediately by a tongue-twisting Portuguese toast by Brazil’s Bani Silva on “Bonde Di Ihmao”, which elegantly slides into the hopped-up bossa nova of “Travels in Hyperreality” (tip of the hat to the man whose name he dubbed out for show business), led by accordionist Jean Louis Matinier and flautist Bobby Rangel, which Winter redirects through a velvet-rope Mideastern maze into a space age lounge, with Barney McAll at the electric keys.
By the title track, the pace has hardly slowed down, but the dub has become more prominent in the mix, keys bubbling, trombones pumping, Matt Darriau of The Klezmatics blowing bagpipes and an end-blown Balkan flute, Aruban percussionist Wally Warning´s vocals dubbed into fractured admonitions. “Obroni Outernational” brings the spirits of Fela Kuti‘s horn section to the forefront, reincarnated as saxophonists Peter Apfelbaum and Ben Abarbanel-Wolff (who wrote the tune). Neatly, the next track is a Fela cover, “Water Get No Enemy”. Singers Earl 16, Luciano, and El Witari pass by. Winter sneaks in his version of German band Senior Allstars “Tomorrow Now” and later, a remix of a tune by The Police’s Stewart Copeland covered by “drummer group” Elbtonal Percussion. Super-relaxed and utterly heavenly, “The Power Dub” even features singing saw. Unexpectedly, the album closes with a ballad a tad too saccharine, sung by Gian Slater, accompanied by a harpist, which just seems to have ended up on the wrong record.
A moveable, skankable feast, almost too generous with its portions.