Label: Love Boat - LB27 (Italy, 2023)
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Dub
Info & Description (from the original label info):
THE THUGS is Nicola Giunta (Lay Llamas)’s latest metamorphosis.
Known for being the founder and main mind of Lay Llamas, a crucial name in what has been called New Italian Occult Psychedelia, with many releases out and a well deserved status of masters of the genre, Nicola is also active as Mouse And Sequencers and as half of summerTales. He is an internationally celebrated visual artist, and his Xerox art works have become record covers and posters for lots of musician peers (Vanishing Twin, Beautify Junkyards, David Holmes, Gnod, Hoga Nord Rekords).
But Holy Cobra Dub is a reggae record.
Be careful: not and indie record that its press office declares as “influenced” by reggae, possibly by the crazy dub stylings of Lee Perry (pretty common post-mortem, while it was all about the craftsman rigour of King Tubby before), but that at the end of the day still sounds like an indie record, though sprinkled with spices.
Holy Cobra Dub is a reggae and dub record tout court, in its intentions and results, in its creative ways and sounds, and it won’t take fans of the genre more than a few seconds to recognize it as such. As an outstanding reggae and dub record, actually.
Almost exclusively played with vintage instruments, its twelve tracks are an immersion in the purest roots sound of mid-to-late ‘70s. Seemingly coming straight out of Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio, they have exactly that spacious and deep posture, that feeling of continuous invention, but with a psychedelic centrifugal force that may be explicit (in the four tracks not strictly compliant with reggae’s standards), or more often hidden in details. Bringing to mind yesterday’s and today’s gloomiest post-punk, or Lay Llamas themselves, and their excursions in expansive rock, mediterranean ritualism and alien folk brightness.
This is how Giunta - a sicilian from the ancient Greek temple area of Selinunte, since 2011 based in Veneto - recounts the origins of both the band and its stunning debut album:
“The Thugs is me and Edoardo Guariento, who drums in Padova’s metal-core band 3ND7R as well. The idea goes back to the summer of 2021, when I played Edo some Jah Shaka tunes from the Commandments Of Dub series. He loved it, and took his drums in my home studio, where we recorded some takes in which I improvised as a live dubmaster of sorts, with a small mixing board and a couple of echo and reverb pedals. After a few of these sessions, I selected the best takes and built the first two Thugs tracks on them, playing all the rest: guitar, bass, drums, organ, percussion, effects. In the following months I kept creating new tracks, also using various drum machines from the ‘70s and ’80s, kinda moving onto a more post-punk and psychedelic sound. The drums made me think of Suicide, plus maybe Oneida and Moon Duo.”
With its music at once familiar and unknown, and its brilliant visual aspect, Holy Cobra Dub seems then like a mysterious find from an uncertain time and place. Roughly datable between 1974 and 1982, but found in Jamaica or India?
“Almost all the instruments used on the record are from the ‘70s and ’80s: Eko Cobra 2 electric guitar, Fender Jazz bass, Eko Tiger organ, Bontempi, Korg and Diamond drum machines, old tapes. Vocals have been recorded through an old ‘70s audiometer, a gift from a doctor friend. All the art and layout - entirely done by me, as is the video for first single Dark Waters - harks back to a ‘70s look, to the irregular and crooked graphics of jamaican dub albums of the time. I only used clippings from old books and magazines, and my copy machine.
As for the concept, it all starts with my love for Emilio Salgari: the Thugs are Sandokan’s and Tremal-Naik’s antagonists. I love the idea of this sect meeting in underground sanctuaries, carrying out mysterious rituals for their goddess Kali. Each song and title is somehow about their activities.
I’d like to point out, however, that I side with the theory that claims the Thugs were actually a form of organized resistance, aimed at confronting and eliminating the english invaders, and not simple criminals or - indeed- thugs. Like the English always defined them, until they became synonimous.”
“Holy Cobra Dub is truuuly immersive - a Great Leap Forward” Mark Stewart (The Pop Group, Maffia, New Age Steppers, On-U Sound)
“The dubbed out sounds of a hazy, sunny afternoon at Bristol's Ashton Court Festival. The Thugs definitely bring on those good times!" Chris Reeder (Rocket Recordings)
"Trippy, psychedelic, full of reverb and delay. Exactly what I wanted to hear today, but also yesterday, and tomorrow for sure" Populous