Alborosie’s Sound the System gets the showcase treatment

alborosie-soundthesystem-showcaseAlborosie’s label VP Records certainly tries to make the most out of his acclaimed latest album Sound the System, released in June last year.

After the original album release a dub version was put out in December 2013. And now a new version is available in two separate editions.

Sound the System Showcase comes with ten tracks in full showcase style, i.e. followed by their dub counterparts. It’s available on CD, digital download and a limited edition 5×10” vinyl box set. The latter looks like a bona fide eye-catcher with its master tape style box with lift-off lid.

Sound the System Showcase effortlessly pairs Sound the System with Dub the System. It’s great set honouring the lovely showcase style. If you already own the vocal and the dub set, then this album maybe seems like a collectors item and only for die-hard Alborosie fans.

But that’s not necessarily the case. Here you get the best out of two worlds. Definitely well-worth seeking out.

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G-funk roots from Rick Haze

cover170x170U.S. producer Rick Haze recently dropped a new album titled The Dopest Roots, an eleven track set where he continues to work with other U.S. based acts, and the album includes collaborations with Midnite, Inna Vision, Arise Roots and SkillinJah. The set comes with four vocal cuts, six dubby instrumentals and one intro.

The Dopest Roots is blunted like a G-funk album and brings back memories of the early 90s with whiny synths and lazy and fat beats. It’s said to be produced and recorded in memory of the late and great Jamaican producer and mixing engineer King Tubby and two of the tracks include name checks.

This album is heavier and more uncompromising compared to most reggae from the U.S. The bass lines are weighty, the arrangements are rather sparse throughout the set and the mood is ethereal and meditative, partly thanks to the slow and powerful riddims.

Definitely not the usual U.S. reggae album and definitely one to check out if like your reggae slow and heavy.

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Blue King Brown’s Born Free is a powerful sonic experience

121604-L-LOA few weeks ago I noticed that Australian’s leading reggae producer Mista Savona posted a link to Blue King Brown and The Congos’ Babylon a Fall. I didn’t know anything about Blue King Brown, but Mista Savona and The Congos sounded like a nice combination, so I listened to the tune, a tune featured on Blue King Brown’s third album Born Free.

When I listened to the tune and the album I was completely blown away. Some of the beat-driven tracks were absolutely stunning. It turned out that Blue King Brown is an eleven piece outfit fronted by the energetic Natalie Pa’apa’a and one of Australia’s premier live bands with a strong following around the world. They have over the years shared stages with a diverse range of artists, including Damian Marley, Santana, Julian Marley and Lauryn Hill.

Blue King Brown dropped their debut EP almost ten years ago and they are known for powerhouse and percussion-driven riddims. Their approach is a punky one and Natalie Pa’apa’a’s vocal style is rebellious and confident. One Born Free they have collaborated with a variety of different producers – Mista Savona, the Grammy Award winning James Caruso, Styalz Fuego and Chris Macro. And the result is a powerful sonic experience.

Some of the highlights are downright militant. For example the dark Like a Lion and the pounding Renegade. Then there’s the anthemic All Nations – with a catchy break in the end – and the powerful Jesse Royal combination Righteous Ones.

But there are also a number of slower and smoother jams, particularly One People and Educate the Masses. Both acoustic and earnest.

Internet is fascinating. Two weeks ago I had no clue about Blue King Brown or Born Free. Now I have yet another contender for the best albums of 2014 list.


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Irievibrations Records tell the story of Jamaican music production

Acclaimed Austrian label Irievibrations Records – led by Syrix and Professa – have produced an insightful short documentary series about the art of Jamaican music production. It’s an intimate look behind the art and history of how reggae music is crafted in its native Jamaica.

The first season of Studio Chronicles covers producers and mixing engineers like King Jammy, Stephen Stewart, who currently owns and operates the legendary Harry J studio, Don Corleon and Gussie Clarke. Featured artists and musicians include Konshens and his brother Delus along with Junior Kelly and Sly Dunbar.

The first three episodes are now available on Youtube and you can check the trailer below.

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Bost & Bim celebrate 15 years in reggae with new exciting project

BOST & BIM special blend  Ladies firstFrench production duo Bost & Bim have for the past 15 years continuously put out new and exciting reggae music. They have managed to gain respect from all around the world and collaborated with top-notch singers and deejays like Sizzla, Capleton, Chronixx, Gentleman and Alborosie.

Bost & Bim have never been huge fans of genres and they have put an effort into blending organic rootsy riddims with digital dancehall-fused reggae, hip-hop and soul. Sometimes sophisticated and grand, at other times minimalist and hard. They have also been pioneering reggae mash-ups with their acclaimed Yankees a Yard mixtapes, on which they give new life to well-known hip-hop and R&B by transforming them into groovy reggae.

Their latest project is on the verge to jazz. Special Blend – Ladies First is in a press release described as a more personal project, a project that has come to mind from meeting various artists around the world. Special Blend will become a series and Ladies First is its first volume. It collects six vocal cuts from U.S. singers Brisa Roché, MoZella and Rosey, Mariama from Sierra Leone/Germany, Jaqee from Uganda/Sweden and Ellen Birath from Sweden.

These six singers are based in the jazz, soul and pop traditions and Bost & Bim give them a reggae treat on this very exciting project. The set ranges from the rootsy Sweat King to the sweet Tiny Little Oranges. There’s also the heartfelt Intangled Situation and the somewhat more dancehall-oriented No Way.

The vocals are accompanied by tough dub versions and minimalist remixes from themselves along with Fabwize, Left Lane and Masta.

I’ve been a huge fan of Bost & Bim for a long a time and they were one of the first interviews I did. I was overwhelmed by Yankees a Yard and needed to find out more and I’ve been hooked on their music ever since.

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A U.S. reggae album from the UK

untitledReggae music continues to grow in the U.S. with internationally recognized events like The California Roots Festival and Billboard charting artists including Rebelution and Soja. But the U.S. take on reggae has also gained response on the other side of the Atlantic.

Eight-piece reggae band Backbeat Soundsystem from Cornwall, UK, blends vocal melodies and hard-hitting toasting with upbeat and organic riddims on their freshly released third album Together Not Apart.

The UK has always been second to Jamaica in the reggae industry with distinct sounds of lovers rock, steppers and other bass-heavy sub-genres. Backbeat Soundsystem and their debut is something new and the band is well positioned to crossover into the U.S. market.

Together Not Apart has a high tempo throughout. It’s punky and funky with melancholic melodies, multi-layered vocal harmonies, intricate horns and pumping beats. If bands like The Green, John Brown’s Body and the aforementioned Soja and Rebelution is your thing you should definitely check Together Not Apart.

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Yet another sophisticated set from Adele Harley

adeleharleytimeless250When looking at the cover sleeve of British-born singer and songwriter Adele Harley’s second album Timeless it doesn’t tell you anything about its content. The sleeve is suitable for almost any genre.

Timeless is however reggae, the lovers rock kind. And just as with her debut album album Come into My Life she has again collaborated with acclaimed riddim duo Mafia & Fluxy.

And together they have crafted a sweet and sophisticated album with a mix of popular covers and timeless originals. It also featured legendary sax man Dean Fraser and a combination with the late John Holt.

It’s a mature album and Adele Harley certainly has a sweet and beautiful voice tailor-made for slick lovers rock, but Timeless also glances at ska, Rose Garden, and sweet vintage po, as on Venus.

Timeless is reggae for grown-ups and it definitely has an appropriate title.

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Kabaka Pyramid drops new mixtape as free download

Jamaican singjay Kabaka Pyramid – who started his career as a rapper – has just put out a fresh mixtape together with Livity Movement’s Dev Kutta.

Titled The Lyricist showcases the talent and lyrical ability of Kabaka Pyramid who has been recently dubbed a conscious revolutionary lyricist.

“When coming up with the title it was so simple, because whenever listening to Kabaka Pyramid I always say he is ‘The Truth’ or a real lyricist. So I didn’t want to impose my views by calling the mix ‘The Truth’ I will let the listeners be the judge, but you can’t deny that he is ‘The Lyricist’,” says Dev Kutta.

The set collects 24 cuts and throughout the set one can hear excerpts of Kabaka Pyramid discussing different views on reggae and Rastafari. Included are combinations with Chronixx, Masicka, Exco Levi, Tarrus Riley, Protoje, Sizzla and Dre Island.

Several fan favourites can also be heard on the set, for example Liberal Opposer and Selassie Souljahz.

Check the mixtape below or over at Soundcloud.

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Jahcoustix is naked on new album

jahcoustix-acusticfrequencySinging with a band or singing a cappella or just backed by a guitar might be something like holding a presentation with or without a PowerPoint. It can be a demanding setup where you are naked, vulnerable and exposed.

The latest addition to the increasing number of acoustic or unplugged reggae albums is Jahcoustix’ Acoustic Frequency, an uncut reworking of his excellent and very rootsy Frequency album, which was originally released last year.

This brand new acoustic version comes with the same amount of cuts, but three of these are dub versions and included are also a few exclusives. So, it’s not a full album that has been recut. No worries though.

Acoustic Frequency is just as great as its uplifting predecessor. It offers a new and different perspective to his music. It’s intimate, personal and raw with an organic feel throughout the set.

According to an interview with Jahcoustix it only took five days to record the album and he and his producers – Irievibrations – didn’t put too much thought into the production. They just let the vibes flow. And simplicity is often a tasty recipe for success. Acoustic Frequency is a telling example of that.

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Fresh dub from Natural Numbers

e52119a2a4ef64712a22a2edb4b3b588Natural Numbers is the latest project from Los Angeles-based producer and mixing engineer Tom Chasteen, who is primarily best known for being co-founder of Dub Club, an acclaimed reggae club in Los Angeles as well as one of his musical projects.

Natural Numbers is rooted in the dubbier side of reggae, but also loans elements from the Middle East, country and surf rock. The riddims on Natural Numbers in Dub are original recordings of an all-star band led by heavyweight bass man George “Fully” Fullwood along with members from rock band Wilco and psychedelic pop rockers Mazzy Star.

Cornell Campbell is also on board the project and lends his falsetto to Unconditional Dub, Dub in the City and the superb Dub and Blind. The latter is a cut where Tom Chasteen shows his dance music roots and this five minute masterpiece just keeps building up layer after layer.

The set has a full sound and is not a dub album per se, since a number of the songs are rather instrumentals with added effects. Others, however, are more deconstructed and pulled back together with echo and reverb.

Highlights include the militant Pressurizer along with Theme for King Richard and Ride the High Dub with their haunting organ and lingering surf guitar respectively. Best of the ten tracks is however Dubble Trouble with its rocking percussion, driving bass line and swinging guitar picking.

Natural Numbers in Dub is yet another solid effort from Tom Chasteen and shows that California has more reggae to offer than ska-punk and surf rock reggae.

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