Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System
Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System
Photo by Nataworry

Lee "Scratch" Perry Digs Into Reggae Roots at the Ground

Most Americans might not be aware of him, but Jamaican producer Lee “Scratch” Perry may be the most influential musical artist alive. Whether it’s seen through the iconoclastic, no-fucks-given punk ethos of the Clash, the tripped-up, spaced-out sounds of the first Gorillaz record, or in the sonic adventurousness of electronic artists like the Orb – themselves Perry collaborators – Perry’s legacy can be glimpsed across the musical spectrum. On January 13, Miami audiences will have the opportunity to catch him live and in the flesh at the Ground.

Having collaborated with such foundational reggae artists as Bob Marley & the Wailers and Max Romeo, Perry is widely regarded as one of the chief architects of both reggae and dub music. The latter genre, commonly understood to be atmospheric, instrumental-heavy music with extended running times, has grown far beyond its initial Jamaican roots and is now readily associated with musical experimentation in any and all forms. If your favorite track has a longer, more rhythm-oriented version with prolonged instrumental freak-outs, it’s likely considered a dub version. And in Miami, an international city where rhythmic dance music and club culture reign supreme, the extended instrumental is a fact of everyday musical life, something we all have the innovations of Perry to thank for.

Perry is hitting the road alongside Subatomic Sound System, a collective of new-school Perry disciples as well as longtime collaborators. Together, they're touring in support of last year's Super Ape Returns to Conquer, an extensive reworking of one of Perry’s defining releases, 1976's Super Ape. In addition to material from this most recent record, Perry and Subatomic Sound System will no doubt be performing other hits culled from the producer’s long and substantive back catalogue.

If Perry’s lengthy discography is too daunting for would-be attendees to delve into, they might be better off walking into the Ground with an open mind and an intrepid spirit. In the wake of 40 years of music directly influenced by Perry’s work — it’s quite possible that reggae and hip-hop as we understand them would not exist without him — it might be difficult to share in the same surprise that once dazzled early adopters of Perry’s sounds and productions. But because it was a continual thirst for the new that drove Perry to innovate behind the mixing desk, taking music into sonic soundscapes and heretofore undiscovered rhythms and routes, walking in blind might be the most appropriate way to honor his ongoing legacy. And for those already prepared to honor one of the great sound selectors? Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. (Discreetly, of course.)

Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System. With DJ Kiva. 8 p.m. Saturday, January 13, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-375-0001; facebook.com/thegroundmiami. Tickets cost $25 to $30 via tickefly.com.

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