Pyrotechnist – second round with dub out of Belgium

Have you ever wondered what do producers do after the last musician leaves their studio in the evening? Well, they just take all their toys - microphones, tape machines, echoes, reverbs, mixers, and any other retro junk and play with it the whole night long. They do dub!

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Vinyl record with "Fire Cracker" by Pyrotechnist

Of course, that’s out of the question in a digital studio, there’s nothing to grab there. That ritual is only possible in such temples of analog equipment like Pum Pum Hotel Studio in Belgium. Named after the red-light district, where it was situated in the beginning, was bound to be home to some kind of musical perversion. Our shaman is Nico Leonard and his skills could be already heard 4 years ago when Pyrotechnist’s debut album Dub Rocketry was released. Since then, the studio did not slow down and became the heart of Badasonic Records, co-founded by Nico. That may explain why we had to wait so long for the Dub Sessions Vol. 2 entitled Fire Crackers.

Pyrotechnist – Fire Crackers

Dub is not a team sport, history proves that the maximum number of producers assigned to one task should be 2. Pyrotechnist is no exception – core of the project are Nico Leonard and Pierre Haegeli, a combo which was formed during their times in The Moon Invaders. Actually, they could handle all the necessary instruments just by themselves as the former plays any type of percussion and anything with a keyboard and the latter is skillful in string instruments. But to spice things up they once more invited David Loos on saxophone and for the first time Rolf Langsjoen on trumpet. Both should know the Pum Pum Hotel quite well as they are members of the in-studio band The Badasonics and also were members of The Mood Invaders.

I should warn all the dub fanatics straightaway. What was born out of this cooperation is certainly not the brutal deconstruction of reggae in the style of King Tubby. Do not expect minutes of a lonely bass line with spars guitar beats on a never-ending echo loop. Fire Crackers is a much closer relative to chilled funky tunes of Jackie Mittoo. Those songs are simply catchy! They include a lot of melodies and rich arrangements, while still having the obligatory dub laziness. Already the opening “Noi-Zee Boy” is an earworm with its bassline emphasized by organs. And this is just the beginning of this song! “Diamond Head” with its beautiful theme could be easily one of xRob Black tunes. All this makes me very happy as I must admit that I was never a fan of radical dub. Actually, I have advice for all those who still have problems with reverb and echo – drop the needle on “Blazing Comando”. Do you hear that? You just have to shake your leg like to any ska tune out there! When you get deep enough into that groove turn the vinyl and give “El Torro” a try. It’s a more radical mix of the former with a sweet sax solo on top of it.

That’s something that I really like about this album – with each listen one starts to appreciate the tunes with a little less catchy melodies and more radical dub techniques. The key is to give Fire Crackers enough time. That doesn’t change the fact that Vol. 2 has a lot more commercial potential than its predecessor and by no mistake, I played it already many times more than the Pyrotechist’s debut. Let me remind you – I’m writing about a fully instrumental album, no vocals at all, and still, it’s fascinating. This diversity is largely due to Nico who looks at music partly from a drummer’s perspective. Just listen to all the different beats on this album. He even avoided the ultimate dilemma of giving names to instrumental tunes. Each song is the brand of old fireworks and trust me – producers of those never run out of ideas for fancy names.

Fire Crackers, released at the end of February, is a beautiful showcase of Pum Pum Hotel Studio and a perfect listen on a hot, preferably non-working day. Add to it the high publishing standards in Badasonic Records (let’s face it, as much as we love Jump Up Records that published Vol. 1, we all know that album sleeves are not their highest priority) and we have a must-have in your collection.


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