Hair Stylistics: Dub Parade On My Way
air Stylistics are one of the least known bands I've ever attempted to write about. They are a spinoff of the only-slightly-better-known Violent Onsen Geisha, a Japanese noise-rock band. I really don't like Violet, not least of all at the thought that they might have preventing Hair Stylistics from getting together more quickly and producing more material—a handful of singles is pretty much it so far.
Unfortunately, those are pretty hard to find. Maybe it’s because Hair Stylistics play Jamaican music in a completely original way. Not German revival dub, not Hepcat first-wave-fetishism ska, not weak white reggae. Hair Stylistics manage to create their completely new reggae sound with just some primitive percussion, synth, guitar and turntablism. Primitive is the key.
This track begins with a weird dry drum machine, bouncy synth bass, and a sample of a guy saying “back a lack back a lack back a lack". The drum machine seems to be stuck on the “reggae” pre-set, pounding out its rhythm amid a bubbly atonal synth sound that appears and disappears. As both these elements forge the base of the track, other sounds drop into the reggae reverb chamber and emerge covered with flecks of dust and gold.
Thirty seconds in, the guitar brings in the skank and lets the reggae riddim shine through. Bizarre drum rolls, more synth bubbles and time-shifted vocal samples fade in and out. Although the song seems to be looping and dubbing in 4 and 8 bar figures, there's nothing we can call a verse or a bridge. It's a peculiar method of construction that allows for familiar themes to be dropped on top of one another as reference points, simultaneously giving an anchor to the listener and leaving them wondering which sound will emerge next.
The key element of the group’s sound, though, is the drum machine and its fake funkiness. Crude quantization of percussion patterns has something to do with it. It's even more obvious in their cover of “Wordy Rappinghood”.
The magic moment comes close to the end of the tune. Like most of Hair Stylistics' music, this one is laced with sexual tension. At 2:56 you can hear some lady moaning, "oh.... i need sex ... oh.... I can't stand it anymore". But we're offered no release from this track, just a return to the familiar dubby riddim that's been dubbing us all the way along up until now.
Hair Stylistics make originality seem so easy, make drum machine stiffness sound funkily natural and make everything seem sexual. That's what they do. And I love ‘em for it.
By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2004-10-27