Review: The Thomas Family – Dub Variations

The Thomas Family - Dub VariationsI spend the first 18 minutes staring down the eye of a flashlight, dazed in the dance of high frequency feedback and the swirl of circular retina flare. The sound is harsh but somewhat vacant. A strange ring shape rippling on the surface of the water, reflected from somewhere unknown, pregnant with meaning but too symbolically vague to ever reveal it. Something stops me from dismissing Dub Variations as I would traffic noise, despite how it hangs in the air as a compound of industry smoke and hollow, shopping centre reverb – it is melodious by illusionary accident, via chance conversations between the high-pitched drones of machines and the rabble of a consumerist public. I focus on the noise until my eyes water, waiting for meaning to trickle out of the mist.

My persistence is rewarded. Distinct objects start to emerge during the third and final piece: little jolts of error and rhythm, slithers of melodica notes, the protests of caged birds. As the beat solidifies it swings, and the melody starts to pay increasing attention to it, draping itself over the perforations of skip and electro-beat. Yet Dub Variations never allows itself to become a deliberate and shapely music; intention remains at arms length, and the duo perpetuate the illusion of just about avoiding eye contact with eachother as they play, appearing on the periphery of the other’s perceptual radar and then veering out of view again. The record ends and confusion collects in a queasy puddle in my stomach, just as it does when I watch a Michael Haneke movie. Something was imminent and I’ll never know what. Beautifully unindulgent.