By the time East of the River Nile was released in 1977, Pablo had racked up nearly a decade of experience as a session keyboardist, producer and solo artist. Along with King Tubby and Lee Perry, Pablo was an early architect of the dizzying subgenre of dub reggae. This early form of remixing blended sound effects, echo, phasing and radical cut-up methods, resulting in a disorienting stew of sound that placed the emphasis on rhythm rather than vocals. It's Pablo's work in this area that has led so many to refer to Nile as a dub album. It isn't, but fans of dub will find much to like here. Like most dub music, Nile is almost entirely instrumental and features more than its share of shifting rhythm patterns and reverb. But strictly speaking, Nile is a just an instrumental reggae album. The knob-twiddling is kept to a minimum, leaving Pablo's haunting melodica lines plenty of room to establish a melancholic mood. His keyboard work impresses as well, avoiding the slick sheen that would later mar so much roots reggae.
With an album as consistently brilliant as this, it's hard to pick highlights, but the title track is an obvious one. Unlike anything that came before it, it's is a timeless drum and bass workout that will leave first-time listeners clamoring for more Pablo. With any luck, Shanachie's reissue series will accommodate that demand.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.