Swaying with a hazy veneer and swaddled in island vibes, Joel P. Rasmussen’s (aka Prince Joely’s) new single "Catch a Whiff" rocks steady. Alight with spot-check dub overtones, smoky horns, and a telltale namesake residue (Rasmussen’s moniker “Prince Joely” is a reference to the famed dub producer Prince Jammy), there’s little doubt as to what kind of fire the listener might catch here, and Rasmussen’s space-dub hits you right between the ears on the first pull.
However, rather than descend into that ultimately pleasurable yet at times disorientingly undistinguished morass of convention and cliché that grips so much modern/retro dub, "Catch a Whiff" is brought to you straight from the cats at Portland’s technicolored Ten Dollar Recording Company. Steeped in a post-dub ethic and not content to tarry at the well of mediocrity, resident TDRCO studio veteran and label founder Ryan Michael Block here plays Scratch Perry to Rasmussen’s Upsetters, and the result is right in line with what the listening public might have come to expect from these Portland tastemakers: homespun originality and a distinct lack of trendspotter acrobatics that has lent TDRCO a unique vantage and fully stocked back-catalogue. Amassing additional help from label mainstays Mariya May and Thomas Mudrick on organs and vocal beatboxing respectively, Rasmussen’s bass, horn, and percussion work is well ensconced in a roots/dub aesthetic, aided in large part by Block’s guitar, drums, and Black Ark-worthy production skills. Himself a TDRCO veteran (Rasmussen played and co-produced with Block back in the 00’s in The Red Channels, and has lent a hand to most of Block’s many solo retrospectives), newer label act Prince Joely is in good hands, and as a result "Catch a Whiff" rings out with deep roots and a solid groove to match.
Opening up with a forlorn intro piece resonant with lonesome trumpet calls, meandering bass, and Spanish-influenced guitar lines coalescing with the verisimilitude of a post-jazz Sketches of Spain, the winds quickly rise to fill the sails of the dubbed out main melody line, and this ship sets sail into a fully formed forward march. As Rasmussen’s bass bounces and trumpet calls, Block’s guitar follows suit as May’s funky organ lines effectively punctuate the gaps and hold the whole ship afloat, utilizing an attention to sparse detail that doesn’t allow the track’s sonic cup to runneth too far into noise, instead allowing each call and shot its respective place in the mix. Over it all, Block’s dub mixing adds in a little delay here and a little reverb there, unfocusing the ear to the particulars in favor of the whole, and really pulling Prince Joely’s "Catch a Whiff" together. Rasmussen’s horn calls and deep basswork are pretty solid all around, and as a piece all the switches are hit. When it’s popping, it pops, and the only complaint here is that the track could have been a shade longer, as once the root is down, this one has the fortitude to lay it over a few more bars, if you can dig it. Still, all things considered, maybe the listener can fly this one first and then wait for the re-dub version to hit the dancehall next weekend.
With a release date of New Year’s Eve, 2013, "Catch a Whiff" finally caps a landmark year for the Ten Dollar Recording Company, with the release of a flood of great material from multiple artists with very little throwaway. For Prince Joely, perhaps 2014 will see more in the works, and if "Catch a Whiff" is any indication, this train ain’t stopping anytime soon. (Reed Burnam)