PRINCE BLANCO with JACOB CINO, ARAM SCARAM, SASSA’LE, NATEWIZE, DUBMATIX and REDNOTE At Thymeless (355 College), Saturday (March 29). $5. 416-928-0556. Rating: NNNNN
Toronto-based British expat Prince Blanco’s love of the Clash was obvious just from the title of his 1982 debut single, Punk Rock Rude Boys.
Rebel Discoteque, his newest CD, also owes a debt to the punk icons, even though it also finds him leaving his comfort zone of live bands in favour of programmed rhythms and samples.
That shift was inspired in part by his experiences with the Dub Collective, a monthly party that brings elements of modern dub-reggae-influenced music like drum ’n’ bass and dubstep together with its classic forms.
“Back in the day, you’d look out into the crowd and see this weird mix of white punk rockers and new romantics, and then all these Rastas. At the beginning of the evening they’d be dancing by themselves, but by the end of the night they’d be grooving as one big thing. You still see that at Notting Hill Carnival in the UK, and Caribana here, and I think we’ve kind of kept that vibe at Thymeless as well.
“By the end of the night the Rastas are digging the dubstep and the drum ’n’ bass, and the guy from Sudbury who’s going to U of T is digging the heavy classic reggae.”
After getting his start singing and playing in punky ska bands, Blanco dove headlong into the traditional roots reggae world. He found himself singing over seasoned backing bands, opening up for people like Horace Andy and Ken Boothe. But when the Toronto scene cooled down, he started experimenting with various offshoots of reggae and dub, which eventually led him to hook up with the Dub Collective crew.
“I’ve always liked what Sassa’le has done, and since we’re both expat Brits, we have a lot in common.”
Originally, the idea for the album came from doing promo spots for Version Xcursion, Sassa’le and Aram Scaram’s long-running CKLN show. Impressed with Scaram’s studio prowess, Blanco decided he should try to do an album using the same techniques on full songs, and enlisted Scaram to produce it.
What came out is a seven-song EP that feels like classic reggae but doesn’t sound like it, if that makes any sense. There are elements of drum ’n’ bass, some attitude from punk and, of course, plenty of dub atmospherics. In many ways it’s an update of the punk rock reggae aesthetic, trading guitars for computers as the weapon of choice.