Radical Dance Faction meets Youth. The most anticipated album of the decade finally hits the decks. Will it meet up to expectations?
First off – Rewind. For those of you not familiar with Radical Dance Faction (or indeed Youth) it is worth us laying down some history, so you know why we have been waiting for this so eagerly.
Radical Dance Faction (AKA RDF) have been around in one form or another, on and off, since 1986. They quickly became one of the most respected acts on the festival/free party scene, mixing dub vibrations with punk attitude. The line-up has ebbed and flowed over the years with singer Chris Bowsher being the only constant. The Rhythmites, Dub The Earth, The Propaganda And Information Network (PAIN), DF118, The Revolutionary Dub Warriors, Pama International and Black Box are just a few of the band names that would appear on an RDF family tree.
They split in the mid-1990s, returning in 2006 and have kept the RDF flag flying ever since.
A new RDF album is always something we look forward to. But this time we get Youth thrown into the mix.
Youth (aka Martin Glover) first came to fame as bass player with Killing Joke. In the four decades since he has pioneered psychedelic dubby chill out and dance vibrations from working with the likes of the Orb and Blue Pearl, running several record labels, producing the likes of Pink Floyd, U2 and Madonna and, for the last decade or so, he has been reunited with the legend that is Killing Joke.
The meeting of RDF and Youth has been a long time coming, with them first meeting up many moons ago.
“I met Youth in the early 90’s,” Chris Bowsher states, “RDF were playing at the marquee club and right after the gig we connected naturally, as we both have a common affinity to poetry and music. But, due to other obligations at the time, what was for me a massive regret, we didn’t get to work together then and there. But that encounter remained a mutual appreciation society and now, it seems the time has become the right time with the result being Daydream Dystopia”.
Youth is similarly respectful. “It is a great honour for me to be working with Chris and RDF, it’s been a long flirtation, fantastic for us to finally work together. The band has never sound better”.
So that’s us caught up. But what does this meeting of minds sound like?
Spread across two discs, on the first disc we get RDF with Youth at the controls, gently teasing the best out of the music.
Chris can be an introspective type on times and is often his own biggest critic. Being a perfectionist he is not afraid to revisit his own past and see if some extra life can be breathed into some of his proudest moments. As a result this album sees brand new numbers sitting alongside old favourites being resurrected, polished and reworked.
RDF albums have never been run off in huge numbers, meaning most of the back catalogue is pretty hard to get hold of these days. This album therefore presents a rare opportunity for new fans to get to hear tunes they would otherwise only catch live. And for those of us that already have the tunes – hey – who doesn’t want to hear what they sound like with Youth at the controls?
The set opens up with ‘Old Man’s Eyes’, an upbeat skanking tune with a brass section thrown in to compliment the usual bass heavy RDF vibe. ‘Feel Dread’ follows behind, dropping the tempo and dubbing up the bass lines.
‘RU1’, which had originally appeared on the album by Chris Bowsher and the Faction’ is the first of the reworkings. It slows things right down and again we get a brass section thrown in to add some depth.
‘Rogue Trooper’, a live favourite has previously appeared as a live version on the ‘Borderline’ LP and a remix on the ‘Ragamuffin Statement’ LP. This is the first time it has appeared as a straight studio mix and its inclusion finally gives it the platform it deserves.
The tune that has launched a thousand stage invasions, not to mention festivals, ‘Surplus People’ has us stepping away from the keyboard, punching the air and bouncing up and down. First appearing on ‘Borderline’ it has been a staple of the RDF live experience ever since.
Another from ‘Borderline’ gets a reworking, ‘Riverwise III’ is a much dubbier and deeper version than the original, with plenty of reverb and fuzz thrown in giving it a hard, dark edge.
‘I Wish I had Seen Paris in the Spring with You’. Are we getting romantic? Or are we remembering the heady days of the 1968 revolution? We shall have to ask Chris about this last track next time we see him.
And if that, were that, we would be happy. The anticipation would have been worth it. But the second disc features the same songs but with Youth sprinkling his own dub magic over the tracks.
Dub mixes can sometimes bare little resemblance to the original – even Youth’s own reworking of the Killing Joke back catalogue dubbed many of the tunes out of all recognition from the originals. However, respect is shown to the original material at all times here. Sticking to the original spirit of dub, bass lines are turned up, echoes are dragged out, vocals are speeded up and slowed down. Occasionally bizarre sound effects are sprinkled over the top, enough of them to make things interesting, but not enough to sound clichéd.
‘Feel Dread’ feels more, well, dready. ‘We lived we loved’, which originally appeared on ‘Infinitive Splits’, the Faction album, feels spacious and bouncy. Another original tune for the album ‘What the Man Made of Stone’, similarly gets put through and echo machine to give it an out of body feel.
Most of the vocals are stripped out of ‘Surplus People’ and the urge to dance is amplified by youth doing what he does best, extracting every ounce of groove out of the bass line.
So we come back to the original question we asked ourselves one hour and thirty seven minutes ago. With this much anticipation involved, does the album disappoint or fulfil our expectations? We think it is fair to say it actually exceeds our expectations. Dropping late in November, it has snatched the crown of best album of the year so far, it’s going to take something special in the next month to top this.
*Interview with Chris Bowsher in the bag and coming soon