VERSION XCURSION with Rob Smith and Nick Holder at Andy Poolhall (489 College), Saturday (December 4). $5 before midnight. 416-923-5300. Rating: NNNNN
Most people equate dub with "chilling out." You know, kicking back with some green, blasting off and letting your body ride the bass. Local dub outfit Version Xcursion wanna get dub off the couch, out of the basement and back onto the dance floor.
Not that Sassa'le (aka Lee Castle) and Aram Scaram (aka Aram Lee) aren't into "getting in the zone." They're just not here to chill you out.
"I know there are a lot of people who want the next level," offers Sassa'le in his transatlantic accent. "Some people who love reggae and dub have to go to a house club to shake a leg. We're here to set something up and tell people to bring their dancing shoes.
"When you tell the club that you play dub," he continues, "they think people are just going to come and smoke pot. And we're like, 'Yo, we're going to pack the floor. '"
Sitting in the concrete bowels of CKLN gearing up for another session of their long-running Saturday-night radio show, the pair chat excitedly about DJing, producing and the release of their debut LP, the aptly titled Radio.
"We want to take on all of North America," declares Aram confidently. "Everything comes from dub - garage, jungle, house, even a lot of the vocals you hear in today's R&B. As DJs, we're trying to make you dance. On the album, though, we wanted to get in your head."
No kidding. Two years in the making, the new joint packs pristine production and deep-as-Baikal bass, and features a ton of top-notch contributions from people like vocalist Katie Murphy and the Resonators' Graeme Moore. The pair even roped in house boss Nick Holder and Rob Smith of Bristol's Smith & Mighty for remixes. (Both producers will also appear at the VX record release party).
"A lot of it was trial and error," concedes Sassa'le. "Part of the reason it took so long to make is because we were learning along the way."
VX's genesis dates back to the mid-90s, when the Bristol-bred Sassa'le arrived in Toronto and kick-started his dub-centric radio program. Back then, artists like Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead were exploding out of Bristol and popularizing what became one of the decade's biggest musical movements: triphop.
With cats like Massive Attack and Smith & Mighty in the booth, Sassa'le was among the first to tune Toronto audiences into the triphop. Nine years later, he and Aram Scaram, who signed on in 2001, are hoping the "new dub" sound will blow up in a similar way.
They point to tracks like the recent Crazy In Kingston Jay-Z remix, a jacked-up mishmash of roots reggae, echo-heavy effects and big-room bass, as proof positive that the dub sound can rock the party - hard.
"You can play that anywhere and it fills the floor," says Sassa'le. "But it still has that reggae feel. We're saying, 'That's not the only track out there. We've got a whole crate of this stuff. '"
Though Friday's set will be a live-to-air DJ set, the pair are also planning to bring the bass in the coming year with the VX soundsystem. They'll drop samples, spin records and be joined by a vocalist, bassist, violinist and what Sassa'le mysteriously refers to as "the black box."
"We shouldn't have to leave Toronto do this either," says Aram. "We should be able to be recognized for what we do right here."