Heavy special

Did you know? The origins of dub can be traced to the 7-inch single.

Reggae artists would record a song for side A, then record an instrumental version for side B. The side B “dub” versions often employed psychedelic recording techniques. Eventually, this tricked-out form of reggae branched out on its own.

And here I was about to rag on Dry & Heavy for filling its 2000 album Full Contact with a lot of repeated tracks.

In fact, the dub versions of three tracks — “Dawn is Breaking”, “Love Explosion” and “Less Is More” — follow directly after the songs themselves. None of this stashing-remixes-at-the-end-of-track-listing business.

It also demonstrates just how closely Dry & Heavy relates to its roots — this band is serious about its reggae tradition.

Dry & Heavy would eventually record a more ambitious album with 2002’s From Creation, but on Full Contact, the Audio Active side project already had a full sense of what it could accomplish.

And its foremost strength is songwriting. The first few tracks of the album could have been rock, R&B, polka — it doesn’t matter.

“Dawn Is Breaking” has a melody well suited for Likkle Mai’s singular voice. The opening hook on “Knife” is unforgettable, while “Rumble” is just plain infectous.

But oddly enough, Dry & Heavy’s emulation of its influences made it distinct. This band doesn’t dilute reggae by mixing it up with other genres — it sticks to the low, low bass, the cracking drums, the cavernous reverb.

Although singers Mai and Inoue Ao leave a significant stamp on the album, the real star is producer Uchida Naoyuki.

Uchida plays the studio console as expertly as any member of the band plays an instrument. Instruments weave in and out on each track, echoing and thundering at precise moments.

In live shows, Dry & Heavy counts on the virtuosity of its instrumentalists. In the studio, it’s Uchida who creates the palette and paints with it.

Take “The Smoker’s Cough” — as an instrumental, it’s all right, but the real treat is how Uchida controls the elements of the track.

Full Contact is a good album on the strength of its writing alone, but the passioned performances and beautiful production bolsters it to a superlative status.