Berlin-based Sea Urchin give a new spin on dub, immersing themselves in an envelope of echo and throb and affixing it to the breathy vocals of Leila Hassan. The album has a dissociative quality to it, floating and drifting on in a puddle of salt water, performing sensory deprivation experiments that bring to mind something out of Altered States. The music feels disorienting, and if the listener closes their eyes, its hard to trust the imagery that floats into view as concrete – distorted figures, memories from 8-bit landscapes and past lives never touched all float into view. The music isn’t particularly hi-fi, but lo-fi seems like a slap in the face. The bass is muted but full, rattling the skull. Hassan’s vocals float in such a crisp headspace that they seem like omniscient instructions, rendered in language that’s on the tip of the tongue, and forever unobtainable.
The rhythms are rudimentary, built from rhythm boxes that seem out of date but still alive with a magic that’s sparking in their husks. The whole of Yaqaza is like a strange week in the Ayahuasca circle, facing down the ghosts of the forest and emerging changed. Perhaps its not truly as immersive as all this sounds but, as a true headphone record, the album does seem to pull one out of mind with little effort. The band’s attributed its creation to that of a dreamlike state and, in turn, it does seem to find itself evoking imagery that could only be associated with dreams, hallucinations or mental meltdown. The band succeed in finding a way to lock in the psychoactive aural adventure and run wild with it. Where dub has always had it way in the countercultral community, here the band elevates dub beyond its roots and into a new plateau of experimentation.
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