Photography: Glyn Akroyd / @GlynAkroyd

Scientist

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  • Upper Cut Band
  • Kiko Bun
  • DJ Oxman + MC Magoo
Positive Vibration @ District 2/11/19

Despite taking a year out from their annual festival offering, the Positive Vibration crew have certainly not been resting on their laurels. A series of high profile shows throughout the year, including Horseman, King Yellowman and Mad Professor, have kept the reggae chalice blazing in Liverpool and tonight is arguably the jewel in the crown as acclaimed dub pioneer SCIENTIST brings his seminal 1981 album Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires to the ever welcoming environs of District (not for the first time a District first-timer comments on its inclusive coolness).

District is pretty packed from the off and the crowd are soon dancing to DJ OXMAN, aided and abetted by MC MAGOO, whose selection of rarities and classics is pure quality and leads us skanking into KIKO BUN’s support set. The versatile Bun, a member of the current South London scene that includes collaborators Loyle Carner and Tom Misch, seems equally at home delivering a lovers rock vibrato or a dancehall flow and mixes songs from his relatively modest recorded output, such as the bouncy Sticky Situation, with new material from his forthcoming debut album which sounds very promising indeed. The UPPER CUT BAND take no time at all to hit their stride, the rhythm section of Bob Pearce (drums) and Ross Erlam (bass) are immediately locked into the tightest of irresistible grooves, offbeat cymbal crashes sending the crowd dipping in unison. Marcin Bobkowski’s choppy guitar riffs and Cyrus Richards’s swirling keys blend exquisitely with the punchy horn riffs of Adam Webb (sax) and Jake Jacas (trombone).

Scientist Image 4

Frankly, if the crowd had just come for the Oxman DJ set and to see Kiko Bun and the Upper Cut Band they would have gone home handsomely rewarded. But yet, the main event is still to come; it is approaching Day Of The Dead midnight when Scientist appears at the mixing desk as quietly as one of the ghouls he is about to vanquish.

Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires is an epic and playful comic book title for an album that is generally regarded as a dub classic, taking previously released (and, in 1981, contemporary rather than established) material from the likes of Michael Prophet and The Wailing Souls, adding judicious twists of echo and reverb but never draining the originals of their integrity.

The sound quality, which has been superb all night, is somehow taken up a notch. A fuller, brighter sound drawn out by Scientist’s sleight of hand (promoter Rory Taylor later comments, “We’ve used that PA thousands of times but I’ve never heard it sound like that before”).

Scientist Image 4

No self-indulgence here, or 20-minute dub outs – just the songs delivered in relatively concise form. The performance takes not much longer than the original album; the unassuming controller hunkered down behind the decks, which are situated off-stage to the right of the dancefloor, are all that separates Scientist from an audience who are facing away from him towards the stage. As the performance progresses more and more people are sneaking a wondering look over their right shoulders to try to get a clue as to how Scientist is conjuring up this sound. Who knows? He is a picture of unadulterated concentration, probably the only person in the building not dancing.

Prophet’s Love And Unity becomes Your Teeth In My Neck; Wailing Souls’ Fire House Rock morphs into The Mummy’s Shroud, its memorable horn motif echoing long into night. Bun strides across the stage, arms aloft as the crowd sing every word of Blood On His Lips (Wayne Jarrett’s Love In My Heart). The Upper Cut Band prove equally adept at soloing as they do nailing down a groove: horns, guitar, and keys all stepping out of the shadows to be transformed by Scientist’s sound-shifting searchlight.

From the sea of bobbing heads audience members shout out their praise – “Thank you, thank you, massive tune that was”, “Sick album, fucking wicked man” – smiling faces and cheers signalling universal agreement until Scientist, his exorcism complete, smiles at last and disappears.

It has been a night of understated brilliance, a mixture of science, alchemy and magic to rid us of our demons.

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