Today’s renewed interest in reggae is quite different from the first wave of mainstream curiosity nearly two decades ago. Then, Bob Marley’s pervasive spirituality and promarijuana proselytizing and the music’s feel-good sprawl endeared reggae to hippies and college freshmen everywhere. In the last few years, however, club culture has reframed reggae–particularly dub reggae–stripping it of the connotations picked up during that period. Dub pioneers like King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry have been lionized for their innovative techniques, which pared away the breezy melodies and soulful singing to focus on the bass and drums. England’s Neil Fraser, aka Mad Professor, has carried on King Tubby’s legacy, producing and releasing more than 100 albums on his own Ariwa label. He’s also produced recordings for Perry, U-Roy, and Macka B, among others, and last year he remixed the most recent Massive Attack album with brilliantly twisted results. His own work is primarily instrumental–melodic lines implode and notes explode with echo-heavy crashes without ever sacrificing rhythmic fluidity. But while Mad Professor has taken dub into the digital era–on the new Evolution of Dub (RAS/Ariwa) drum machines and synthesized bass lines collide with punched-up horns and eerie violin screeches–he still employs lots of Tubby-style low-tech effects, from reverb-enhanced rim shots to ricocheting bleeps of feedback. For this rare local appearance he’ll be onstage mixing a live band, interacting as another member. Wednesday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Mad Professor.