Album Review: DUB INC – So What [Diversité, 23rd September 2016]

You’ll listen to this album so many times, that you’ll consume it. But when a work is so well rounded in every aspect, its intensive consumption is inevitable. As a matter of fact, So What, the sixth studio release in DUB INC history, borders on perfection. Maybe it won’t be considered as the best reggae album ever produced, but it undoubtedly abounds with singularities and strong points that make it unique.

First off, So What is the triumph of independence: self-produced, recorded, promoted and distributed, it keeps a remarkable autonomy from every market rule and label policy. Since its first listening, it sounds fresh indeed, free-wheeling and unconstrained, leaving practically free reign to its authors when it comes to lyrics and music.

Then, it is a spotless insight into French current affairs. Starting off with ‘Grand Periple’, until the closing ‘Erreurs du Passé’, DUB INC illustrate, wonder about and hit back at their country’s social policies, ongoing state-of-emergency, far-right proselytism and failures of integration.

What’s more, the musicians from Saint-Étienne are not interested in a hit-and-run talking-to, but conscious enough to hit, fight and give hope. Throughout their new album, they use their music to indicate a way out and lifeline. So What is a persuasive call to arms, but at the same time a community call because only through togetherness, unity and civic engagement do people achieve social justice.

Finally, is the factor which will make you fall in love with So What: its sound. Throughout their 20-year career, DUB INC listeners have grown used to an addictive blend of Jamaican uptempo rhythmic (reggae, dancehall and dub), North African Arabic harmonies and French urban hip-hop metrics.

So What is all that and even more. In fact, the collective has ultimately fine-tuned its music credo, added some Latin feeling (‘So What’) and produced what can be possibly considered as a contemporary patchanka album. So What is the sound of every hood in the Mediterranean and arguably Europe. It can differ in languages, but the beats, cultural influences and rhythms are shared all over the Continent.

We wrote that So What nearly achieves perfection. We weren’t talking about its impeccability or aesthetic, but the fact that it’s true and real and just like reality, perfection is imperfect and improving by definition.