Subatomic Sound System - Hello, Hello, Hell Is Very Low [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Subatomic Sound System

Hello, Hello, Hell Is Very Low [7-inch] (2010)

Subatomic Sound

It's been a fascinating few years for fans of legendary reggae producer/performer Lee "Scratch" Perry and fans of the Slits. Within the past five years, Perry has released some absolutely fantastic albums, such as the fantastic Panic in Babylon and the Adrian Sherwood-helmed The Upsetter. But the mad genius has also released the sometimes sublime, sometimes pandering Repentance, which was produced by Andrew WK, as well as a few obviously "sold to the highest bidder" performances.

Conversely, Ari Up--of legendary punks the Slits--released the multi-faceted Trapped Animal album with her band, put on some KILLER live shows on the West Coast, and even appeared alongside Perry on the Dubblestandart album Return from Planet Dub.

Now, Subatomic Sound System, a collection of performers and producers, has released a single featuring contributions from both Lee and Ari. The A side, "Hello, Hello, Hell Is Very Low" is something of a dubstep re-creation of the song "Underground" from Perry's titanic 1976 album, Super Ape. But while a lot of dubstep can be a complete wash of beeping and buzzing that obliterates the rhythm of the song, this take on the classic song keeps the bassline thick and driving, making the song integrated instead of shambling.

Ari Up, despite almost 40 years in punk, still sounds fantastic, with her feminine but powerfully bold voice topped by her almost bizarre German/English/Jamaican patois. Unfortunately, Perry's contribution seems to be more sampled than recorded for the release as his "word salads" seem to be dropped at random intervals over the music.

The B-side, "Bed Athletes," which is an alternate version of the A-side, is where Ari Up really steals the show. In the tradition of those classic '70s reggae singles, the song starts off with echoing dub effects only to have Ari come crashing down on top in a dee-jay style, ranting about her sex prowess and cooing in her signature bird sounds. It's crazy, new, and bizarre--all attributes of classic tracks from Perry's Black Ark studios.

With Ari Up in top form, and Perry seemingly maintaining a relationship with Subatomic, hopefully we'll get more releases that push the envelope of reggae while oaring homage to the greats of yesteryear...and hopefully we'll get either a more focused Perry or a producer that does more than just drop the living legend in as seasoning.