Dub Spencer and Trance Hill

Kim Kirkpatrick: When I first learned of Dub Spencer and Trance Hill's releases, I wanted to check them out based on their name as much as what little music information I had about them. With my love of dub, electronica, and atmospheric music, "Dub" and "Trance" in their moniker was enough for me to give them a listen. Dub Spencer and Trance Hill have released three CDs, all on the Echo Beach label: Nitro (2006), Return Of The Supercops (2007), and Riding Strange Horses (2009). All three releases are grounded on a foundation of dub, and consistently have thick, palpable atmospheres.

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill's line up on Nitro (2006) is three Swiss musicians; Adrian Pflugshaupt (electronica, keyboards, sax), Marcel Stalder (bass and ampeg), and Christian Niederer (drums). Nitro drifts along at an unusually slow pace, spacey, filled with delay effects and plate reverb. Shifting and swirling motions of electronica are also a major element on Nitro's tracks. In general this release leans towards Progressive Rock/Jazz, comparable to Bill Laswell, Nicky Skopelitis, Moerlin's Gong, and John Scofield's rock leanings. This release also has significant amounts of extended saxophone playing on the tracks, always played through various effects. Personally, I generally find saxophone in Progressive Jazz/Rock music boring if not actually annoying, perhaps this is a personal problem but I feel compelled to point it out. Though Adrian Pflugshaupt's sax playing is as heavily effect's laden as John Klemmer he plays with the intelligence and coolness of The Lounge Lizard's John Lurie. Which hopefully indicates that even if you can relate to my sax difficulties it should not deter you from checking out Nitro.

Dub Spencer and Trance Hill's second release is Return Of The Supercops (2007). The group's commitment to dub music continues to be expressed here and their affinity for the genre is evident through out. The title, Return Of The Supercops references dub master Lee "Scratch" Perry's Return Of The Super Ape(1978) release. This second recording from Dub Spencer and Trance Hill really brings to the fore front their love of the spaghetti western genre, visible in the group's cover art for this second release and in their name (check out Bud Spencer and Terence Hill).

This is an amazingly well done blend of numerous genres -- Ennio Morricone's classic soundtracks for Sergio Leone movies, dub styles from several decades, electronica, a touch of tango, jazz guitar, shredding rock guitar. I even thought I was hearing a few bars of Tom Verlaine's "Clear It Away" buried in the first track, "Dublerone". The willingness to move at a particularly slow and pleasurable pace is once again present, along with a seemingly infinite number of guitar, electronic, and studio effects (I cannot over emphasize the amount of reverb and delay on these tracks). The line up changes for this second release with only Marcel Stalder (bass, vocals, dub) carried over from the first release. He is joined by Philipp Greter (organ, keyboards, dub), Julian Dillier (drums, dub), and most notably Markus Meier (guitar, vocals, dub). Guitar is prominent on this second release and I enjoy Meier's diverse tones and playing styles. He plays percussively, with clear and precise notes, but also with feeling. During a recent listen I was struck by his consistent use of staccato rhythms, and the overall clarity and lightness of the band's playing.

Riding Strange Horses (2009) is the third release from Dub Spencer and Trance Hill, with heavily reworked, dubbed out cover versions of pop classics going back three decades. Originals by The Clash, Falco, Genesis, Deep Purple, Morricone, Metallica, Martha and The Muffins, The Ruts, Burroughs, and others are covered. Of particular interest is the rerecording of the vocals for much of the material covered on Riding Strange Horses. Martha Johnson sings on "Echo Beach", Ken Boothe on "When I Fall In Love", and Lee "Scratch" Perry on a version of "Blackboard Jungle". If you find the concept of this release interesting then I encourage you to check it out. Like the other two Dub Spencer and Trance Hill releases, this one is subtle, tasteful, intelligently created and performed. 21st century Dub/Electronica music performed by Swiss musician's released on a German label, how can you not check them out?