Howie B. Vs. Casino Royale – Not In The Face: Reale Dub Version (Fabric Records/V2)


You might have heard of this guy called Howie B… Well below the radar, particularly to Australian ears, however, are Casino Royale, an eclectic Italian group with a 20 year history. The two camps met when both found themselves part of a U2 tour at the end of the last millenium. In 2006, the group asked Howie B. to produce their latest album, which came out in the Italian market as Reale. While both parties were very happy with the results, Howie B felt he could take the material off on other tangents and asked the band for permission to rework the master tapes in his own studio. Permission granted, tracks reworked, 2008 sees the results find their way into the world. Backstory complete…

So how does it sound? Anyone familiar with Howie B’s work, as either a producer or, more particularly, as an artist in his own right, will recognise the sound of this album. Inspite of Howie B. being one of the more prominent names of 90s British electronica, his sound was never quite ‘trendy’ – his breakbeats never floor pumpers, his hooks never cheesy/catchy. For that reason his work has also aged remarkably well. So familiarity here does not breed contempt. It is consistency as a strength. Dusty, midtempo breaks, pure electronic pulses, grainy ambient washes and a dubwise approach to remixing. Casino Royale’s original instruments are clear – the electric bass giving a particularly steady pulse to many of the tracks, alongside the acoustic drums blended with the samples and drum machines. Brian Eno once remarked that Howie B. made albums by basically reconfiguring his record collection. Here, he uses that exact principle, but limits his source material, of course, to Casino Royale’s Reale album. Where the band plays a much straighter, dark mid-tempo funk, however, Howie B. sends it into the futuredub stratosphere. Tracks don’t particularly standout from each other, but form an ever shifting, amorphous, inventive whole. It’s the type of dub you put on to background whatever you’re doing, but end up enthralled by the minutae of sound and effect, being sucked into paying your full attention. Quite recommended.

Adrian Elmer


About Author

Adrian Elmer is a visual artist, graphic designer, label owner, musician, footballer, subbuteo nerd and art teacher, who also loves listening to music. He prefers his own biases to be evident in his review writing because, let's face it, he can't really be objective.

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