It’s only after watching the informative visual for “Big Energy” by Pachy García—aka Pachyman, “Puerto Rico’s emergent champion of rub-a-dub-style”—that you instantly develop an inside-baseball type of love for his The Return of… Pachyman project. You can’t help but think about him running around his LA basement studio, 333 House, on each track, playing everything—bass, drums, piano, congas—layering it on top of each other, working it out like a lil madman on that reel-to-reel tape machine. Knob-twisting to the Gods like all get out on the effects board until he hits dub-wise perfection.
And yet, this is all the dub ancestors, the elders had to work with. King Tubby, Scientist, Mad Professor…. They did not choose to use this form of recording, it’s just what was available to them. No computer in sight. So in a makeshift analog studio, they booted up and launched, making timeless sonar journeys that spoke to the enslavement past of Jamaica and the space-traveling hopes for the future, employing skanking guitars, tree trunk cavernous beats, and massive sound sketches.
That’s right. Recently departed legend Lee “Scratch” Perry, the Jamaican producer, songwriter, singer, and disc jockey, helped reshape reggae music by using the studio as an instrument, removing and emphasizing sounds through echo, distortion, repetition, and backward tape looping. Perry was also the town handyman in Kingston, Jamaica. So if your toaster was not working, he was the person to find to get your bread crunchy for breakfast.
Garcia is perhaps best known as the drummer-vocalist for LA-based band Prettiest Eyes, a pop-noise project that reflects his other formative interest, synth punk. As a teenager, he was drawn to the guitar as a fan of bands like Nirvana, hardcore Dischord label bands, and Puerto Rican hardcore pioneers Tropiezo and Juventud Crasa.
Yet, he kept an ear out for imbibing electronic music, drum and bass, jazz, fusion, more specifically Wes Montgomery—one of the most influential guitarists of the Twentieth Century, known for an unusual technique of plucking the strings with the side of his thumb and his extensive use of octaves which solidified his distinctive sound.
With the selection “Sunset Sound” Garcia expands on the dub tradition infusing an electric organ-Moog texture, partially reminiscent of the vaporware trend from 2010, adding these fetching atmospheric ideas to the in-the-pocket chord structures, cooking the stew.
But “El Benson” feels fully transportive, it’s detached from the rest of the album. A logical progression from just dub structures. Garcia, with help from friend Benson Pagán, who currently plays with reggaetón crooner Ozuna’s live band, introduces his take on lover’s rock, consisting of those Wes Montgomery feels, R&B ideas, and post-disco rhythms. It’s as if the entire album builds up to this dynamic track, which follows the sun into the golden hour.
I remember how ecstatic I got discovering all those early Lee Scratch Perry records when I was name-checking samples on golden age hip-hop records. “Blackboard Jungle Dub (Ver.1)” by The Upsetters nearly broke my brain. It was just pure elation. Clean. Simple in thought, yet so intricate in sound.
There will be some youngsters who freak out over The Return of Pachyman in the same manner, I think. And they should. Pachy García has succeeded where so many have failed. He’s made a great… great dub record. I just hope those ‘chirren’ know he’s extending a legacy, a tradition, that sometimes gets unremembered.
Check out The Return of… Pachyman here.