The Drastics are modern roots music. Their sound fits as easily in a Kingston dancehall as it does in an artist's loft-party in the warehouse district. Though primarily classified as a reggae group, The Drastics embrace many styles of music both live and in the studio. This can be heard in their songs which draw from roots Jamaican music, hip hop, hard-bop jazz, afro-beat, dancehall, as well as folk music from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Take this powder keg cocktail of styles, add the pulse of gritty everyday urban living and you get one explosive sound. Not playing into any gimmicks or compromising to trends ("The Drastics deserve much credit for moving deep into unchartered territories" - All Music Guide) The Drastics have been consistently rocking crowds for three years from NYC to LA and everywhere in between ("dub masters, The Drastics ... never fail to put on a killer party" - TimeOut Chicago).
The Drastics first full-length album, "Premonition", was released in 2005 to great expectation on Chicago's JumpUp! Records. The album featured guest vocalists Craig Akira Fujita (Pressure Cooker, Joint Chiefs, 10 ft Ganja Plant), King Django (Stubborn All-Stars, The Slackers, host of Jamaican musicians), Dr. Ring Ding (The Toasters, Senior All-Stars) as well as several local underground talents. The record's raw dirty sound quickly solidified their authenticity while their innovative approach to the music set them apart as leaders of a new school of reggae-based music. ("... musically inventive and steeped in a variety of styles ... know how to use horns and melodica to dub it up real fine" - Beat Magazine)
With their second release, "Chicago Massive", The Drastics undertook their biggest endeavor to date. "Chicago Massive" is a 2 disc album boasting 27 tracks and 24 friends sharing the mic in a variety of styles. The record starts with Chicago beatmaker The Graduate (Big Youth, KRS-ONE, Lutan Fyah, Illuminati Congo) earnestly confessing "this stuff is nice, real nice ... I still can't get over how hard that first disc is" as the opening track drops a hard-ass beat on the unsuspecting listener. Guest musicians on the first disc include Chicago reeds player virtuoso Charles Gorczynski (Silences Sumire, Leaves, Salamander, Video Gum Culture, etc), beatmakers Heavy Rotation, and trumpeter Rich Graiko (Westbound Train). Guest vocalists include King Django, Dr. Ring Ding, Fada Dougou, Zulu (Akon, Kool Keith), Dayna Lynn, Todd Hembrook (Deals Gone Bad), and Corey Dixon (formerly of The Zvooks). Selected cuts off this record were also treated to drastic remixes by upcoming IDM/Electroacoustic duo Silences Sumire.
Now on their third release, The Drastics show no sign of slowing down. Refining their cutting-edge sound, "Waiting" comes hard and to-the-point. The album drops a perfect mixture of fresh material expanding from dub to vocal to jazz-centric improvisation carrying a maturity of sound only those who have paid their dues can manifest. ("Spanning the generations, bridging the worlds between jazz and rock, reggae and prog, and bringing dub to a whole new pinnacle of sound, fans need wait no more, the Drastics have finally delivered their masterpiece." - allmusic review)
tom riley - sax/flute
andrew zelm - trombone
brian citro - guitar
elliot ross - guitar
chris merrill - bass
anthony abbinanti - drums
fada dougou - vocals
mc zulu - vocals
Love Is War : 7" Single : Happy As A Lark Records
2009 Digital 7" Series (Volume 1) : Digital, 2009 : Happy As A Lark Records
Waiting : CD, 2007 : JumpUp! Records
Very Fine, Real Fine : 12" EP, 2006 : JumpUp! Records
Chicago Massive : 2-CD, 2006 : JumpUp! Records
Premonition : CD, 2005 : JumpUp! Records
All Music Guide - Waiting CD Review
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2006's Chicago Massive was perhaps a bridge too far for The Drastics, a sprawling 2 CD set that, whi...2006's Chicago Massive was perhaps a bridge too far for The Drastics, a sprawling 2 CD set that, while eminently entertaining, was at times a study in excess. Waiting, in contrast, returns the group to their roots, a sharp, tight set that's a potent reminder of the band's power to thrill. Every number within is a fascinating aural journey, with Anthony Abbinanti's studio wizardry as crucial to the trip as the band's musical excursions and lithe genre shifts. However, it's The Drastics phenomenal instrumental meanderings within a dubby setting that separates them from the originators, although on numbers like "Das Krampus" and "Nilbog", Abbinanti proves himself adept at traditional dub as well. He's the master of the crisp drum echo - instantly transporting listeners back to the roots age, but also agilely muddies up the decades as well, as with his sly use of the synth stab. With nods to King Tubby, Sly & Robby, Adrian Sherwood, et al, Abbinanti was inspired by the legends, but has created a distinct dub style all his own. Particularly impressive is the evocative "Feast", the slinky "...Strike Back!" and his light as a feather, heavy dub Nilbog", but there isn't a less than stellar production/mix within. But even as he shows off his own skills, Abbinanti constantly highlights his bandmates' as well. He and bassist Chris Merrill's rhythms are superb, the album's pumping heart. The guitarists, meanwhile, display an almost unnerving ability to shift styles on a dime - Mikey Chungish rock-reggae licks splay into Hendrixesque leads, wah-wah guitar splutters into avant garde jazz, while cheery reggae guitar slides into surf. The brass players are equally versatile, their forte is winding a Far East style into improvisational jazz, whilst nodding to The Skatalites on one song, The Supersonics the next. At the center of the action, keyboardist Otto Roeser can whip up a psychedelic froth or chime out a delicate bell-like melody, as he builds up the atmospheres, moods, melodies and rhythms throughout the set. Their music is awesome, while the vocal tracks are stunners as well. Fada Dougou takes two, splendidly nicing up the set with the cheery "Good Time Tonight", while his vocals float in and out "Krampus." In contrast, Zulu strips away the facade of the sex industry on the incendiary, dancehall flavored "Redlight", a lethal retort to the likes of The Police's "Roxanne". Spanning the generations, bridging the worlds between jazz and rock, reggae and prog, and bringing dub to a whole new pinnacle of sound, fans need wait no more, The Drastics have finally delivered their masterpiece.
All Music Guide - Chicago Massive CD Review
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Two albums in, and it's becoming fairly obvious that The Drastics are less a band than an ever widen...Two albums in, and it's becoming fairly obvious that The Drastics are less a band than an ever widening collective. Their debut album, Premonitions, boasted a boat-load of musicians and vocalists, their follow-up, Chicago Massive, features a cruise-ship full, a whopping 24 in all.
Not taking up the mics themselves, The Drastics create an entire disc just for their guesting toasters and vocalists, drawn mainly from the Chicago underground, although King Django and Dr Ring Ding also fly in for the fun. Only four singers are featured within - the sweet Corey Dixon, who's beautifully backed by Tom Riley, Deal's Gone Bad's soulful Todd Hembrook, and the sole female on the set, the scatting Dayna Lynn.
The bulk of this disc then is given over to the DJs, most overtly inspired by a clutch of modern dancehall heroes. Not King Django, though, his "Musical Sharp Attack" pays tribute to the legendary Lee Perry. Ghanaboy rips a page from Scratch's book as well, bringing his kids in accompany him on "Me a Rasta", but so warp-speed is his toast, he leaves them at the starting block.
More importantly, do dancehall styled DJs work over The Drastics's dubby, Afro-roots riddims? I'm not overly convinced they do, which is why I feel the strongest numbers come from the U-Roy styled Jah Scroob and the hip-hop flavored Zulu, whose heavy hitting "Ransom the Senator" is the stand-out toast on this disc.
...The Drastics deserve much credit for moving deep into unchartered territories, and even if they do sometimes hit dead-ends, the journey itself is so intriguing few fans will mind.
The Beat - Premonition CD Review
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Judging by the cover—even the label—you might guess The Drastics' Premonition was a new ska release ...Judging by the cover—even the label—you might guess The Drastics' Premonition was a new ska release but you'd be as wrong as I was when I heard this dubby instrumental release informed by the likes of Augustus Pablo, King Tubby and the soundtracks to '60s tv shows like "Hawaiian Eye." Musically inventive and steeped in a variety of styles, this seven-piece band with five guest vocalists and additional musicians creates a soundscape collage that draws on all elements of ska, rocksteady, and reggae but stays rooted in dub while unafraid to dablle in jazz keyboard voicings, steel guitar effects and full horns, also dubbed to the max. The vocalists are put to good use with dj sections cutting in and out of the mix making for a thoroughly enjoyable whole. I like it!
Centerstage Chicago Feature Excerpt
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The band undoubtedly takes cues from legendary pioneers like King Tubby and melodica maestro Augustu...The band undoubtedly takes cues from legendary pioneers like King Tubby and melodica maestro Augustus Pablo, while blending in elements of hip-hop, jazz, afro-beat, dancehall and rocksteady. And in keeping with dub's test-tube aesthetic, live improvisation plays a key role. Muscular, rolling bass lines anchor fades and swells while guitar, keys, horns, percussion and ricocheting snare shots get retooled real-time through a mixer onstage.
"Everything that we do is actually orchestrated and improvised," says Riley of the live dub. Many members are also multi-instrumentalists, adding a crucial cohesion to the unpredictable turns. "Anything can happen any night," agrees Abbianati. "Maybe something happened one night that was cool and we'll remember to do that from then on, like a stop for a beat and then dropping it again…I think it's really making music when everything's not so structured and you can just play."
The band's second album, Chicago Massive, reflects the same all-out, mad scientist approach. The ambitious double disc lists no less than 24 individual musician credits, including unsung local vocalists like Fada Dougou, Mario Valentine and the Shabba Ranks-meets-Sean Paul growls of Zulu. If that weren't enough, an accompanying 12-inch with alternate dubs of those dubs should keep Chi-town from sleeping on the sound.
Meticulously crafted and occasionally freely improvised, the drastics play original reggae music blending influences from all around the globe (but are not what is now referred to as "world-music"). They also feature two vocalists from the chicago underground reggae scene, fada dougou and mc zulu. The drastics can perform up to 3 hours of original music, including a few cover tunes.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.