'Please officer/Pablo in Moonlight City' 12", Earl Zero/Augustus Pablo (Sufferers Heights, 1979)

(In some ways I'm still, even after all these years, reaching for the words to express myself here). Explicit/implicit; external/internal  ... this 12" release from Earl Zero/Augustus Pablo represents the magic of dub for me personally; on one side of the record, a strong expression of resistance - never dour, carried along by humour - on the other a kind of divine meditation, pure and elemental. 

Oh Jah!
Hear thy children pray, each and every day

Victimization, that’s what I and I get in Babylon
Brutalization, that’s what I and I get inna Babylon

Natty Roots can’t even smoke his I-shence in peace
He has to be terrorized by the beast
”Stop, don’t move, put up your hands!”
In the wink of an eye, their rifles were right in my nose
One a dem say “Bust him head”, the whole a dem agree
Because I-man a Natty Dread!

Please officer, don’t be like a warrior
Not because you carry more guns, than a aircraft carrier

After I-man a trod the earth, with peace and love
Them stop I innocently, screw, “Now I come use brutality”
Whole heap a ignorancy! ..
— 'Please officer' Earl Zero

Love that line about the police officer - overseer - carrying more guns than an aircraft carrier - it's funny. But then when taken with, heard with the very beautiful Augustus Pablo dub on the b-side, this music is taken to another realm that is much more ambiguous.

Augustus Pablo is one of those artists who inspires (in me, at least) what a school teacher of mine used to criticise as my tendency towards 'purple prose' - remove those adjectives, let it breathe - and even though I don't have the words to express it yet ... (I'm looking for some material, some interview quotes or information on what it all means, the mystical use of 'reverb, and foregrounding the bass' to quote some publicity for one of the many books for me still to read).

I always prefer the dub version, and this release is no different. Something touches me when I hear this music all stripped back, but also when I can sense the intelligence of how it is constructed. For some reason, this dub version by Augustus Pablo makes me think of a Cuban band, playing to the audience - it is less abstract than much of his work and there is a kind of joyful quality about it. This intrigues me, as it seems to run counter to the politics of the a-side.

How then are we then meant to relate to the two pieces of music together? (asks the earnest one)

Dub challenges us musically and conceptually, by always offering this other version it reminds us that there are always other voices, other versions, other perspectives. (This is something I've written about already in relation to hip-hop, the idea that sampling and the way it encourages us to relate to music differently reminds us that a piece of art, or music, is always contingent and that this embodies a kind of politics). 

At one point the scratching beat builds in its intensity in a really understated way, it sounds layered as if there are multiple tracks, though it probably isn't: the perfect precision of this beat and the recording sounds so non-human, but it is. Leaving aside any attempt to capture, to theorise this music is simply gorgeous in itself: full of life. Mysterious, but playful at the same time.  

For a nice intro to Augustus Pablo, check out this feature in FACT magazine from last year by David Katz and here's a recorded interview with the master below ...