From the Archives: Lance F. Rockaway reviews Smith and Mighty

The fetid city steam of Paris, London and Berlin was at last behind me. The pressed flesh packed into underground trains, the sullen stares of broken people, the carefully ordered streets… all of it was lost to the sea breeze in my new location.

I had arranged to housesit for a friend on a quiet, shady lane in Biarritz, France. The house was small but had a large tiled patio overlooking the green-blue ocean.

At dusk a sea-scented breeze would cool the warm air, and the sky would darken to a rich, dark blue. As the stars I had long forgotten poked through the sky, I would roll a slim cigarette and down a bottle or two of delicious local wine.


After a few days a strange feeling started to creep through my blood like a slow moving alcohol. After months of poisoning myself with joy in the world’s greatest and filthiest cities, I was suddenly remembering what it was to be happy and contented by myself, on a patio under clean skies listening to the perfect and relentless cycle of the ocean.

But I had brought a piece of urbanity with me, and it fit right in. In fact, the Smith and Mighty DJ Kicks CD, (which came out almost exactly a year ago) was essential to the experience.


The disc’s continuous mix of jungle, dub, soul and hip-hop made each night a strange, contemplative adventure. The album opens with a smoky dub track that swirls around your ears and then hits hard on the slow bass. Just as you lose yourself in the dub, the mix seamlessly flows into an ambitious jungle track by Smith & Mighty and Andy Scholes.

Smith and Mighty are credited with propagating and exporting the Bristol sound, and this track is a nice example of the refined kind of dub-laced jungle that thrives there. At once heavy and light, the track (like many on the album) has the power to add both ancient mystery and contemporary rhythm to any situation.

Sitting solo under the stars and above the waves, the jungle snares hitting frenetically, I felt like I was living on the edge of the world, as if the sound was inventing the wine in my cup seconds before I drank it down.


The DJ Kicks series has had some mediocre results but this is not one of them. While there are a couple of superfluous tracks, they are lost in the fluid mix that manages to blend the dub depth charge with the jungle nuclear submarine. This is the kind of music that can circle the earth in the time it takes to light a cigarette, and by the time the record is over you’re just craving more beats, more snares, more carribean rhtyhm and electronic texture.

Smith and Mighty have contributed so much to the contemporary scene, but in many ways their most important role is that of overseer, of DJ shoguns leading the next Bristol samurai onto the world stage. The DJ Kicks record is that stage, and it sounded perfect in the sultry days and moonlit nights of Southwestern France…

After two weeks surrounded by nature’s subtle wonder my soul was again craving the filth of mankind and his urban temples of depravity. In a way I was sad to leave the soft, warm nights of contemplation behind, but I could feel the slow burn of debauchery begin to lick my inmost parts…and it felt good.

USOUNDS | 7.16.1999

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