'Have Fun with God'

'Have Fun with God' (Drag City / January 20, 2014)

A companion to last year's acclaimed "Dream River," Bill Callahan's new "Have Fun With God" is a remix record that reimagines each of the eight tracks as though channeled through Kingston, Jamaica. This is Bill Callahan in dub: bass-heavy, echoed examinations of "Dream River" songs that have been stripped of much of their structure to create something else altogether.

The practice was common in 1970s reggae, when artists such as Burning Spear and Peter Tosh offered both studio recordings and "versions" of the same song. The most influential producers, most notably King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, helped give birth to remix culture. 

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"Summer Dub" samples the phrase "I painted … "and loops it among psychedelic atmospherics, reverb-drenched flute and percussion. At one point the track nearly consumes itself with echoes of echoes. "Expanding Dub" focuses on the bass-line from "Javelin Unlanding," working the track's heavy bottom end while snippets of keyboard and guitars bounce around in the background.

As a stand-alone entity, "Have Fun …" is a mesmerizing, and utterly strange, listen. Though hardly essential for anyone but hardcore fans, it's a solid stab at the subgenre. Now if only he'd follow this with a Houston-style "chop and screw" rap album.

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Bill Callahan

"Have Fun With God"

Three stars

(Drag City)