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Volcanic Dub (M, 2001)

*GUEST REVIEW*
A mate of mine who reads Wire magazine is always talking about how much they enjoy listening to Twilight Circus.  Strangely, he never mentions Lee Perry, King Tubby, or any other producer or reggae artist.  Could this be due to the connection Ryan Moore has with The Legendary Pink Dots, Steve Barrow's enthusiasm, the quality of the packaging or the quality of the music?  Whatever the reason, it's nice that Twilight Circus may be helping a few more music fans enter the chamber of dub.  Ryan Moore produced, performed and mixed all the tracks on Volcanic Dub.  The music is effected dub that improves with repeated listens.  Despite the effects there are still tunes bubbling away close to the surface, some of which are funky.  Unlike an Adrian Sherwood dub, the tracks on this album could quite easily slot onto one of the many classic dub compilations without anyone noticing.  Volcanic Dub is a nice contrast to the bashment, ragga, dancehall, and dubtronica you may encounter in the record shops.

- ragudave

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1. Lightning Strike
2. Rolling Thunder
3. Spacehall
4. Floorshaker
5. Dub Blast
6. Seismic
7. Dub Quake
8. Flexi
9. Keep Moving Dub
10. Lava Flow
11. Volcanic
12. Fams
Volcanic Dub
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The Essential Collection (M, 2002)

Twilight Circus Dub Sound System, as grandiose as the name sounds, is in fact one person, Canadian Ryan Moore (currently based in The Netherlands – perhaps because of the liberal marijuana laws, hmmm?).  He has released a remarkably steady dose of material over the past decade, earning a loyal fan base of dubheads worldwide and gaining significant critical praise.  I don't know how "essential" it is to these listeners, but The Essential Collection gathers tracks from 7 Twilight Circus albums ranging from 1995 to 2002.  Now, while I don't consider myself a huge dub fan, I still enjoy some of the more unique, dynamic work.  This album, however, had me questioning if I'd outgrown dub as a whole, since Twilight Circus had received such praise for returning to the roots of dub and re-creating a throwback '70s/'80s sound.  If I don't like this, then I just don't like dub, right?  Well, no.  There is still plenty of great dub that I enjoy (Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mute Beat, Dry & Heavy, Glen Brown, Harry Mudie, 21st Century Dub, etc.), and as much as I wanted to include Twilight Circus in that group, I can't.  I just don't get it.  Yes, there are some traditional elements here – rootsy, echoed keyboards, some Nyabinghi drumming, a little melodica – but on the whole, it's still quite modern in sound and thus it still suffers from the same problems that plague a lot of modern dub that I've heard: it's too slick, too digitized and cold, and too, too dull.  The Essential Collection begins and ends on high notes – with the rumbling "Wareika" and the swaying "Sir Dub" – but in between, I slipped into a coma-like state, so much so that the relatively lively "Sir Dub" actually caused quite a jolt.  Tracks like "Acetate" and "Filter 13" are minimalist to a fault and are more akin to ambient music that to dub, in my opinion.  Likewise, "Horsie" and the noisy "Trinity" really lack the roots sensibility and edginess of great early dub music.  This is the kind of dub that makes me sometimes avoid dub; it's mind-numbing and repetitive with too many spaced-out phaser-type digital effects layered on mundane drum and bass rhythms.  Not having listened to Twilight Circus's other albums, I can't say if this collection is representative, but I'd imagine it is, since it samples from so many different albums.  As such, I'd recommend this only to fans of the modern dub sound; as for me, wake me when the circus is over.  

Track Listing
1. Wareika
2. Lowell & Nine [Dub Plate]
3. Trinity
4. Rolling Thunder
5. Session Plate
6. Shaka Version
7. Horsie
8. Fams
9. Acetate
10. Filter 13
11. Floorshaker
12. Sir Dub
The Essential Collection
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Foundation Rockers (M, 2003)

*GUEST REVIEW*
Ryan Moore has attracted some high status guests onto his latest album project. They include Big Youth, Luciano, Ranking Joe, and Brother Culture. The overall theme of the album is one of peace and forgiveness with Big Youth suggesting that war is not the answer; only love can set us free. Normally Twilight Circus albums are instrumental dub albums, but the addition of vocals increases the accessibility and quality of this LP. It's easy to be dismissive about the quality of modern roots and dub, but this album may just open your mind up. This interesting and fresh dub album deserves to be heard by a wide reggae audience. If Blood & Fire Records are still going in 20 years, let's hope they do a Twilight Circus compilation.

- ragudave

Track Listing
1. Love Is What We Need -- Big Youth
2. Dub Is What We Need -- Big Youth
3. What We Got To Do -- Luciano
4. World In Trouble -- Ranking Joe
5. Alpha Skank -- Mighty Three Horns
6. Dub Selector featuring Ranking Joe
7. Foundation Rockers -- Brother Culture
8. No Burial -- Mykal Rose
9. Blue Motion featuring Eddie "Tan Tan" Thornton
10. Jericho Dub -- Mighty Three Vs. Twilight C
11. Love Dub Remix -- Big Youth
12. What We Got to Do [Acoustic Mix] -- Luciano
Foundation Rockers
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Dub From the Secret Vaults (ROIR, 2004)

*GUEST REVIEW*
What have Robert Pollard, Mike Patton, John Zorn, Kid 606, and Merzbow got in common?  Well, they rarely get mentioned in reggae reviews.  Additionally, they also appear to release practically everything they record solo and with collaborators.  Dub From the Secret Vaults is Ryan Moore's attempt to document the tracks that have been gathering dust on tapes, hard drives, and DATs around his studio.  The album title may remind you of second-rate dross disguised as rare lost dubs.  However, the beats on Secret Vaults are something different entirely.  They include twisted E2 E4 beats, trip-hop, a human heartbeat, global roots, and funky keyboards all doctored up to give that special Twilight Circus sound.  This is an atmospheric and experimental album that’s surprisingly accessible.  It would be easy to label this as just another dub album.  However, that would ignore the quality of this collection.

- ragudave 

Track Listing
1. Big Youth Intro
2. One Drop
3. The Groove
4. K2500
5. Achou
6. Slyy
7. Bassie Dub I
8. Other Worlds of Dub
9. East of Memphis
10. Electric Africa
11. Twilight C meets Tommy Z [Heartbeat Riddim]
12. Bassie Dub II
13. Lift Off
14. Space Dust
Dub From the Secret Vaults
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Cultural Roots Showcase (M Records, 2006)

*GUEST REVIEW*
Ryan Moore, one time dubmeister, is slowly gaining a reputation for roots reggae. His latest album is a vocal showcase with contributions from Michael Rose, Admiral Tibbett, Ranking Joe, and Mikey General. This limited edition six tracker is one to be savoured. The instrumentation is spot on. It's tight and as distinctive as Sly and Robbie at times. Showcase is more uptempo and rockers than his previous releases. The directness and four vocalists gel well together. It's a pity that heavily promoted artists like Pama Internation don't have the quality and depth of production that Moore offers.

- ragudave

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Track Listing
1. Shilling -- Michael Rose 
2. Have the Strength -- Admiral Tibet 
3. Gideon Time -- Ranking Joe
4. Tell it Like it Is -- Mikey General 
5. Shaka Zulu -- Ranking Joe 
6. Original Fire -- Ranking Joe
Cultural Roots Showcase
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Cultural Roots Showcase (M Records, 2007)

*GUEST REVIEW*
In my opinion, there just aren't enough reggae albums inna showcase style -- that is, where the songs are extended mixes that go directly into their dub versions with no gap in between. It's a best-of-both-worlds approach to reggae, and the added "Cultural Roots" aspect noted by this CD's title makes for a prime example of the form. M Records, started a decade ago and presided over by multi-instrumentalist and producer Ryan Moore, has been a big boost to the re-invigoration of the roots. One need look no further than the artists represented here and the subjects they address to see that Mr. Moore is still championing the cause. The three selections by Ranking Joe find his nimble tongue-tripping consciously, Prince Alla urges repatriation from Babylon, Admiral Tibet and Mikey General testify to the need for strength and candor and Michael Rose continues his M Records high arc with the same militant might he brought to his Black Uhuru years. And the riddims? Well, they're lean but layered modern roots all the way. Moore handles many of the instruments himself and brings in the expertise of Sly Dunbar, Chinna Smith, Style Scott, Dean Fraser, Skully Sims and others for extra potency. Some of the bass lines could be weightier, and the final track ends in five minutes of unnecessary silence, but other than that, this one's a killer.

-Tom Orr

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Track Listing
1. Shilling -- Michael Rose 
2. Have the Strength -- Admiral Tibet 
3. Gideon Time -- Ranking Joe
4. No More Will I Roam [Extended Mix] -- Prince Alla
5. Tell it Like it Is -- Mikey General 
6. Shaka Zulu -- Ranking Joe 
7. Original Fire -- Ranking Joe
Cultural Roots Showcase (2007)
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