With the first episode of Black Rhino Radio's Experiments in Dub just around the corner - March 24th on Platforma Wolff w/ Om Unit, Low Freq, WRK, Rax, Cocco Mio & Matei, we took the opportunity and review Om Unit's series of Acid Dub Studies. With this event, Black Rhino Radio digs deep into the crates of bass music and returns to promoting the bass music culture and artists on a monthly series of events.
Jim Coles, aka Om Unit, is a true trailblazer in the ever-evolving world of electronic music. Like any artist worth their efforts, he has refused to be boxed in by traditional genres. Instead, Om Unit seeks to curate a unique blend of genres beyond the typical confines of sound system culture. Drawing inspiration from various influences, such as hip-hop, ambient, jungle, and footwork, Om Unit has created a daring and fresh take on deep electronic music that is both emotionally resonant and cutting-edge. Over his nearly two-decade career, he has worked with legendary labels like Metalheadz, Civil Music, and R&S's Apollo imprint and has collaborated with artists like Deadbeat, Martyn, Seekersinternational, and Machinedrum as Dream Continuum.
Of his album work, Om Unit's Acid Dub Studies series has been a particular hit with fans and critics alike. The 2020/21 series includes parts I & II, plus a remix album making 'Acid Dub Versions' a late-career lynchpin in an already expansive and well-received discography. It is a perfect marriage of the 303 and 808 sounds. Inspired by simple walks around his native Bristol, Acid Dub Studies is an unpretentious take on dub music interjected with the psychedelic atmosphere and emotion drawn from Om Unit's extensive genre arsenal.
For 'Acid Dub Studies', Bristol takes centre stage across its accessible runtime (wrapping up neatly around 30 minutes, much like early, classic dub pressings). Somehow it traverses between melancholia and effortlessness with harsh elements of dub reggae, ambient, and even dub techno. Its opening track, Bristol Theme, perfectly encapsulates this. This combination works effectively across its powers, like the synth melody of Treading Earth or the atmospheric dub-techno-leaning Rolling Stock.
On its follow-up, 'Acid Dub Studies II', Om Unit doubles down on the 303, albeit with different sonic techniques inspired by King Tubby and Basic Channel. Heading more groove-based than its best-selling predecessor, Acid Dub Studies II kicks off with a beatless wonder, Melted. From there, it forays into the dancefloor-focused territory through Camo and Acid Tempo. Of course, reggae and dancehall permeate throughout. Particular tracks of note in this vain are To the River, Pursuit, and Strange Brew, before it wraps up with another breathless wonder, Springdub Meditation.
And, with the dual release's companion remix album, 'Acid Dub Versions', Om Unit taps well into his sonic palette, doing so with some help from his friends. From a who's who of dubby leftfieldists, 'Acid Dub Versions' is a natural evolution in the never-ending quest to unearth the potentials that emerge when disparate elements converge within set acoustical confines. The package starts by staying true to the original vibe, featuring Deadbeat's fluid and groovy interpretation of Dissolved, followed by Seekers Intl. 's rhythmic and unconventional take on Ghosts, which is a tribute to the Jamaican dancehall culture.
Next, Dubkasm's rendition of The Struggle takes the listener on a journey through the UK steppers style. The best version of this track is the extended and powerful edition with retuned drums, which delivers an intense and mesmerizing experience. Also on the package, Stephen Hitchell, the co-founder of Echospace, delivered three extended and deeply immersive tracks, including two released under his CV313 moniker and an ambient version of Rolling Stock under the Variant name that will expand your consciousness.
The musicality of Acid Dub Studies/Versions should give renewed appreciation for Om Unit's entire discography, both in its breadth and its sheer quality. From the sleek production of his early dubstep work to expert drum & bass manipulations, Acid Dub Studies/Versions finds Om Unit at his most passionate and confident. After years of experimentation and exploration, Coles has emerged as a connector between musical ideas and studio techniques, creating heightened emotional outcomes for his listeners. And this package may be the clearest example of this yet.