Sept. 17 2013 07:31 PM

New project by Santino of Illuminauts blends reggae with punk abrasion

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The Most Hi

The Most Hi EP
(Kill Quanti)

Ever since Jamaican pioneers like King Tubby, Augustus Pablo and Lee "Scratch" Perry began manipulating reggae recordings with echo effects and spacey mixes, dub has been in a constant state of evolution. In the mid-1970s, it represented a sparser, otherworldly spin on roots reggae, and by the end of the decade, it was getting its earthy textures roughed up and reincorporated into post-punk by bands like The Slits. In the 1980s, Adrian Sherwood's experimental On-U Sound label brought dub into the dystopian age, and in the '90s, electronic acts like The Orb used dub elements as a launching pad for ambient and house singles. 

To hear where dub is today, however, give a listen to the debut EP by The Most Hi. A new project by Santino Romeri of Illuminauts and Kill Quanti DJs, The Most Hi fuses traditional elements of dub—delay effects, reverb, deep and prominent bass lines—with more of a raw, punk aesthetic. Released both as a digital EP via Bandcamp and as a limited physical copy packaged in colored handmade scrolls, the record is 15 minutes of raw, dirty and ominous atmosphere.

The first track, "Do It To It," is one of the more upbeat of the bunch, propelled by echoing, skipping beats and screeches of siren. The EP grows even more intriguing as it progresses, hitting a disorienting, noisy stride with second track "Top Sprocket." It's little more than a noxious cloud of cacophonous samples for a solid 40 seconds but transitions into a cool, distorted bass throb, undercut with hard-hitting dancehall rhythms. It's closer to Primal Scream's XTRMNTR than The Upsetters' Super Ape, but its dub roots are still easily detectable.

The longest track on the EP, "Shell Shock," is also the only one to feature live vocals, provided by Ultragash. It's an eerie, slow-creep of a track, juxtaposing bursts of beat-driven energy with passages of ambient tension. The shortest track, "Banned in C.V.," is saved for the end. A reinterpretation of Bad Brains' "Banned in D.C." through a noisy electronic filter, it closes the EP with a short explosion of chaotic fun. 

Punk and dub have mixed before, but the solution stirred by The Most Hi is a highly potent one.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff

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