tue 07/12/2021

Album: New Age Doom & Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Lee 'Scratch' Perry’s Guide to the Universe | reviews, news & interviews

Album: New Age Doom & Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Lee 'Scratch' Perry’s Guide to the Universe

Album: New Age Doom & Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Lee 'Scratch' Perry’s Guide to the Universe

The dub genius goes out in his own individual way

Goodbye, Scratch

It seems totally appropriate that Lee “Scratch” Perry’s last recorded album before his death earlier this year, is a collaboration with a Canadian experimental noise outfit and that it is several musical lightyears away from his legendary 1970s Black Ark recordings. For Lee “Scratch” Perry was one of those rare artists, like James Brown and Miles Davis, who made a deep and enduring mark on modern music by showing no fear about experimenting with a whole new pallet of sounds.

Perry often revelled in a ganja-fuelled, madman persona for media and audiences alike, but his crazed outbursts often held more than a seed of truth. So it is with his contribution to Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide to the Universe. As Eric J Breitenbach, Greg Valou and Cola Wars lay down a blend of jazz, drone, stoner grooves and dub, Perry chants, sings and speaks his wisdom before it’s fed into an echo box and dosed in reverb. It’s also wild stuff that has considerably more in common with experimental jazz of the Sun Ra Arkestra than with the reggae of the Upsetters but which never noodles off into the doldrums.

“Life is an Experiment” is a deep electronic drone with bowed bass, the dub machine turned on full and Perry preaching “Be faithful, be pure, be clean/Listen to your dreams”. Meanwhile, “Fly in the World” is a whirling crescendo of energetic drums, constantly threatening to fall apart before building again, and “Holy Dub” is a dub jazz dive deep into a sea of reverb.

“Step in Space” takes things even further out into a spacey, shamanic and disorientating ritual. “Life is an experiment/Step forward” intones Perry as Donny McCaslin’s saxophone soars over and around him. Final track, “Conquer the Sin” is even more experimental and trippy with an all-enveloping fog of sound that could soundtrack Armagideon Time itself. However, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide to the Universe is the kind of spaced out, benevolent philosophy that we all need in these difficult times and a fine epitaph to a legendary musical adventurer.

Lee “Scratch” Perry was one of those rare artists, like James Brown and Miles Davis, who made a deep and enduring mark on modern music

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