Album Review: Satori Vs. Dr Echo – Dub Defender Sessions [Anicca Records; May 2020]

Back in 2005 reggae enthusiast and experimental artist Steven Jess Borth II founded Satori. Soon after the band’s debut album, Savor Every Moment came out, Borth began collaborating with sound engineer and fellow Californian, Justin De Hart (aka Dr. Echo). Borth is currently based in Denmark while De Hart resides in New Zealand, where he runs his independent label Anicca Records.

Despite the physical distance between the two, they have managed to bring together a set of tunes from the period when Satori began to move into a more experimental direction with the group, CHLLNGR. So, between the release of Savor Every Moment and the CHLLNGR project a number of pieces were recorded, and they are now seeing the light of day for the first time in the form of the Dub Defender Sessions.

After a fairly ordinary opening track, ‘Little Do They Know Dub’ we move on with hope to the second number. ‘Mountain Meditation’ has Borth on vocals chanting sporadically to an instrumental backing. “All the peace you need…” he sings as the drums and saxophone stab away in the background. You can just imagine being on a mountain retreat where people go for therapeutic treatments. Eventually, this fades into the ether and we’re onto the next tune.

On ‘Decision’ Borth tries to sound a note of optimism. “All we have to hold onto is the will to live”, he chants as the track comes to an end. This will make the listener think, but not too deeply because the next track is already upon us: ‘It Dubbed Me’ is replete with the sound of horns and has a much more upbeat effect on the ears. 

The Dub Defender Sessions is a moody set of tunes to listen to. Lyrically and musically it stabs the heart like a dart piercing a board. The music is generally dark, matching the lyrics and this doesn’t let up much throughout. A highlight would have to be ‘Intimate Dubolution’, which is a fine piece of dub with plenty of delay and effects on it to thrill the ear.

Nothing revolutionary here, but the quality is on the dub cuts, which De Hart and Borth have co-produced, making considerable use of electronics, ‘Dub to Nowhere’ being an excellent example of this. Indeed, for this listener at any rate, it was probably the stand out track.

Roughly the first half of the set features vocals with the rest being instrumental. On the final track, ‘Dub Decision’ we are treated to the sounds of keyboards, rattling drums then kick in alongside horns, to finish off a very atmospheric set of recordings which whets the listening appetite and leaves the listener intrigued to hear more from Satori and/or Dr. Echo into the future.