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Dubi Dolczek
Dubi in Space Part 1: The Emerald Gauntlet Zara Hedderman , January 17th, 2018 09:58

This cosmic crooning is a trip - we’d like it to go further

An album can transport you to another place. It can bring you back to a specific memory made a week or a decade ago. The deeper you delve into a record, the greater the potential to move away from your reality. It is not, however, typical to find yourself stranded on a planet of grey-haired babies. That is where we find ourselves with Dubi Dolczek’s second album, Dubi In Space Part 1: The Emerald Gauntlet (the follow-up to 2015’s Dubi Dolczek And The Haunted Lagoon). This is a concept album inspired by a planet crafted entirely by Bristol-based musician Graeme Smith, aka Dubi Dolczek. It’s a world filled with tales of bounty workers involved with the galactic federation set to soulful jazz interludes and 1950s-style cosmic crooning. Is this a place that audiences will find inviting? Certainly. Does it have an immediate allure that will compel the listener to revisit frequently? To a certain degree, yes.

Dubi has married various stylistic sounds of the past, present and (perhaps) future. Influences seem to include the rebellious side of doowop, as pioneered by Santo & Johnny, along with Link Wray and the cosmic soulful jazz of Sun Ra. The songs are vividly colourful sonic storyboards; they are concise (they rarely stretch past five minutes) and coherent, and they borrow the prettier sonic elements of cosmic experimentation.

From the moment the keys start on opener ‘Only Human’, a theremin guides us through a swirling ambiance of pedal effects to create a serene mood. Sax lines and softly strummed chords embody the comedown of a 1930s soirée on ‘Ethel’s Merman’ and returns again in the record’s final quarter for ‘I Won’t Remember You.’ These moments are offset by lyrics that thrive on humour and word-play - ‘Nice To Meteor’, for example, is easily misheard as Dolczek jovially singing, “Nice to meet you.” Further sci-fi leanings abound: ‘Martian Lady’ yields a playful 90s take on blues guitar while lead single ‘Laser Dojo’ has tender 1960s shoo-wops.

The instrumental interludes - ‘Laying Low in Bug City’, ‘The Emerald Gauntlet’ and ‘Ethel’s Merman’ - have a nostalgic warmth which makes them perfect to listen to while engaged in everyday happenings such as walking for a bus of turning a key in the door.

The challenging parts of Dubi In Space Part 1 reside in the heavier, more textured songs ‘Mechropolis’ and ‘Tropical Planet.’ There’s a lot to unearth upon each listen. Both of these tracks feel out of place sonically, although ‘Tropical Planet’ touches on the album’s cosmic narrative with a lyric of “tropical planet, so glad I landed.”

Our world flourishes on sonic infrastructures developed decades before, but Dubi In Space Part 1 doesn’t expand on them quite enough. It’s a pleasant trip, though, and it should lead to broader explorations and newer destinations.