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Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell
Ghosts Outside Julian Marszalek , August 19th, 2011 11:04

Though the concept of remix albums and dub versions is hardly new, the prospect of two talents such as Steve Mason and Dennis Bovell is a tantalising one. A founding member of The Beta Band, Mason's work with his former alma mater and subsequent solo output in guises such as King Biscuit Time and Black Affair has always featured a bedrock of low end rhythms and heavy beats to create a languid sense of ambience and mood. Similarly, Bovell's position as one of the most important figures of British reggae – just check his work with Lynton Kwesi Johnson and I-Roy as well as his own group Matumbi for evidence – ensures an understanding of bowel-quaking foundations and intricate rhythms.

But what really makes Ghosts Outside work is Bovell's sympathetic treatment of the source material, 2010's Boys Outside. An album that confronts Mason's ongoing battle with depression and the disappointments of affairs of the heart, Boys Outside proved to be the artist's most satisfying collection since the demise of The Beta Band. Here, Bovell makes Mason an almost spectral figure. His presence is felt almost as a suggestion as large swathes of the original songs and vocals are removed and replaced by dub's classic features – echo, washes of reverb, skanking piano and punctuating, stabbing horns.

The album's best cuts – 'Lost And Dub' ('Lost And Found'), 'Dub Outside' ('Boys Outside') and 'Yesterday Dub' ('Yesterday') – still retain enough of the original versions to ensure that Mason's identity and concerns remain centre stage as elsewhere his ghostly imprint becomes as much an instrument as the sounds, textures and rhythms conjured up by Bovell's skilled orchestration.

Crucially, Ghosts Outside is an album that stands up on its own terms rather than existing as an afterthought or simple gimmick. Moreover, it throws up the rather delicious prospect of what would happen if Mason and Bovell knocked their heads together and started from scratch. Now that would be something worth waiting for.

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