Listen to Treesha

treesha-listenKenya-born and Germany-based singer Treesha started singing in school and in church. After moving to Germany she was discovered by Gentleman and joined his Evolution Band about three years ago. But while on tour she met talented singjay Skarra Mucci who believed in her talent and signed her on his own label.

One of her first singles as a solo singer was a cut on Oneness Records’ Retro Locks riddim, which dropped earlier this year. Her Don’t Do It is a slice of contemporary one drop showcasing a confident singer with great vocal capabilities.

Listen has a number of different producers involved – Oneness, DJ Denzen and Bazzazian – and collects 15 tracks offering mostly modern reggae, but also a few slices of R&B, ska and lightweight dancehall.

Treesha has a lush and sensual singing style and highlights include the urgent I’m a Lion, the catchy title track and the romancing Skarra Mucci combination Love You Like 123.

Nice when talented singers are able to move from the background to the spotlight.

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A fruitful meeting between France and the UK

untitledUK roots and dub champion Russ D has joined forces with France’s Idlers Corner Records on the joint effort Idlers Corner Records meets Russ D.

The set collect 15 cuts and leans heavily towards dub – ten tracks are dub versions. It’s rootsy and digital and features vocal talents from veteran Waterhouse specialists like Kirk Davis aka Little Kirk and Yami Bolo along with Avaran and Ras Attitude.

Russ D is dangerous every time he reaches the mixing board. He has been a disciple of reggae and dub since the mid-80s and has worked with high profile producers like Jah Shaka, Jah Tubby’s, Jah Warrior, Frenchie and Irie Ites along with several others.

A solid set with particularly deadly, yet very tasty, dub versions.

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Fresh and urban from Oriel

Dominican singer Oriel is productive. On July 2 he put out two EP’s. But that was however never the plan and the idea morphed after working with UK-based and Grammy-nominated producer Daniel Boyle.

Love SoulJah was slated for release and then Oriel teamed up with Daniel Boyle who remastered some of his previous releases, and they, together with a few new tracks, sum up Confidence 2.0.

The two EP’s are combined as one release on digital outlets, but they have a slightly different approach and sound. Love SoulJah is smoother and softer and deals with love and relationships, while Confidence 2.0 is deeper with a more social and political vibe.

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This combined set leans much toward pop music and it’s often easily accessible and catchy. Most cuts are however powered by brilliant bass lines. Check the country and western inspired Down Where I Live, the contemporary R&B flavoured Love SoulJah or album opener Confidence with its bulldozer bass line.

A fresh and urban set from an artist with great potential.

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Bright and uplifting on Rampalion’s Inside the Kete Heart

a0697029808_16Spanish reggae duo Rampalion returns with a second album, the follow-up to last year’s Songs ´Bout Love and Fight.

On Inside the Kete Heart Juan Manuel Villa Escribano and Oscar Montesinos Marques get additional musicians to add horns and backing vocals. Otherwise this album is mostly created by themselves.

The set revolves around percussion and several of the songs are based on percussion – the bass drum, the kete drum and the funde. All three instrumental in nyabinghi music. This album is however much more than a nyabinghi effort. It has the organic and pulsating flavour of a nyabinghi album, but it’s also more melodious and catchy. Partly thanks to grand harmonies and infectious, and insanely catchy, choruses and melodies. Listen to Meditation. It sticks like glue.

Lead singer Juan Manuel Villa Escribano has a raw and passionate voice and sometimes he could be mistaken for a rock singer. On Hope he certainly shows his range. It has an 80s vibe with its uplifting horns and memorable melody.

I have ever heard a reggae album based in the nyabinghi tradition that is as easy-going and accessible as Inside the Kete Heart.

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Solid and comfortable debut from Karl Morrison

karl-morrison-better-must-come-ep-starplayer-music-groupJamaican producer, musician, teacher, background vocalist and engineer Karl Morrison has been working successfully behind the scenes for many years. And if you Google his name you don’t get many hits. But he has been key architect behind several hits – Busy Signal’s One More Night and Nightshift, Junior Kelly’s Ease My Pain and Gyptian’s Mama Don’t Cry. He has also worked with Sean Paul, T.O.K, Ding Dong, John Holt and Ken Boothe.

Now he has decided to step into the spotlight as a singer. A year ago he started working on his debut album Better Must Come, and it dropped in May.

Karl Morrison is a classically trained pianist and he attended the acclaimed Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts. His skills can be heard throughout the album. He has a great sense for pop hooks and catchy melodies. Just listen to The Storm Will Be Over, the first track he recorded for this self-produced album. It’s warm, sophisticated and uplifting. Just as the rest of this stylish and mature debut effort that battles social issues and equality as well as celebrating the moral of the Jamaican people.

Karl Morrison’s soothing vocal style and pleasant tone is similar to Duane Stephenson and while the latter is now a household name in the business, the former will probably soon be a force to be reckoned with – both in the limelight and behind.

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Mafia & Fluxy and The Pharmacist treat pain, depression and anesthesia on new dub album

mafia-fluxy-introducing-the-pharmacist-feat-the-pharmacistFirst came Scientist, Peter Chemist and Mad Professor and now UK’s premier Mafia & Fluxy introduce another academic dub wiz – The Pharmacist. Who’s behind that alias is shrouded in mystery.

On Introducing The Pharmacist – produced by Mafia & Fluxy – this mysterious engineer has mixed 12 deadly cuts and some of them come with titles inspired by heavy drugs – Ketamine Dub, a medication used mainly for starting and maintaining anesthesia, Tramadol Dub, pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain, and Amitriptyline Dub, a drug to treat depression.

Some of the cuts on this lethal set come with extra all – sirens, laser beams, echo, reverb, delay and other audio effects that have been the preferred choice for dub engineers since the 70s. Other tracks are a bit more conservatively mixed with focus on the bare essentials – bass and drums.

They have rejuvenated several well-known riddims and the dub version of Johnny Clarke’s mighty Declaration of Rights sets the tone as album opener. It’s absolutely devastating with its haunting organ, Johnny Clarke’s echoing voice and rapid-fire percussion. It’s followed by yet another brilliant relick – Johnny Osbourne’s Truths and Rights, which comes with a hypnotic and spellbinding bass line powered by decades of ganja smoking.

If you need a more natural treatment for curing pain, anesthesia and depression check this album instead of going to the doctor.

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Joss Stone and Damian Marley make sweet reggae music

Joss-Stone-Water-For-Your-Soul-CoverA big voice. She has a big voice. I’m talking about soul singer Joss Stone. I haven’t heard much from her prior to listening to her new reggae-based album Water for Your Soul.

This 14 track set is a result of a collaboration with Damian Marley who Joss Stone worked with on his and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives, a set that at times isn’t far from a few of the cuts on Water for Your Soul. The two were also part of all-star super-group SuperHeavy together with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and A.R. Rahman.

Joss Stone is 28 years old. She has made music professionally for the past 12. This is her seventh studio album. That’s crazy impressive. Over the years she has tried and tested many genres. She started with R&B and has since moved effortlessly between soul, blues, funk and rock. Never stopping, always on the move.

So a reggae album isn’t really that surprising. But quite a few will probably laugh by just hearing Joss Stone and reggae in the same sentence. But they will be proven wrong. Because this album has it fair share of memorable moments, but also a bunch of less memorable ones, for example the ridiculous ganja anthem Sensimilla.

The album collects soulful, sensual and mostly lightweight reggae with a slices of funk, latin and hip-hop thrown in. The arrangements are superb with elastic and bubbling rhythms underpinning Joss Stone’s powerful vocals.

Joss Stone graces massive reggae cuts like Molly Town and Harry’s Symphony with confidence and swagger. The former borrowing from the massive Swing Easy riddim and on the latter she – together with Linton Kwesi Johnson – warns against bad boys. She also nods towards reggae singers Johnny Osbourne, Matthew McAnuff, Barrington Levy and a few others.

Water for Your Soul might be bubble-gum reggae, but it sure tastes good.

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Tu Shung Peng pay tribute to Kingston on new album

TuShungPeng-WiseStories-coverOn Tu Sheng Peng’s – one of France’s premier roots reggae bands – fourth studio album they have teamed up with a number singers to pay tribute to Vineyard Town, an area in the heart of Kingston.

Their work on this album started six years and has come to completion with help from the group’s musical mentor Winston “Sparrow” Martin, multi-instrumentalist, teacher at the acclaimed Alpha Boys School and previously musical director at the legendary Studio One.

The formula on this album is the same as on Tu Shung Peng’s previous sets – original compositions, talented and passionate singers, sweet harmonies and live instrumentation along with analogue gear and recording techniques. This is harmonious reggae firmly rooted in the 70s.

Wise Stories from Vineyard Town brings together several artists – both rising stars and successful veterans. Ken Boothe has recorded since the 60s, while Bongo, 60 years old and farmer by trade, has never recorded before. Nazzleman is also an unknown talent that lends his voice to the excellent Dem Want Love and Children Love Each Other.

The set comes with 15 tracks – 19 on the digital version which includes four dub versions – and best of the bunch is Jah Children No Lie, which starts like a smooth Barry White ballad, but quickly changes into a red, gold and green anthem when the gritty-voiced Ken Boothe gets down to business on this beautiful cut influenced by Ras Michael’s None a Jah Jah Children.

Another highlight is Bunny & Skully’s – a pivotal duo in the course of Jamaican music – brilliant and sincere Take Us There with its pounding bass and drums along with spoken verses and rough harmonies.

A solid release that once again cements France as one of the leading lights in roots reggae.

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Fresh compilation showcases 16 slices of urban roots

artworks-000124230589-fxq11g-t200x200The debut album from Jamaican production duo Natural High Music is a sensational one. It’s a 16 track compilation that’s dread, dense and surprisingly cohesive.

Urban Roots features singers from the new and old generation. Most are actually more or less newcomers and the only veterans are Lutan Fyah and Mikey General. Some of the others have however already proven themselves prior to this lovely set, for example Dre Island, Stevie Lightning from Rootz Underground, Jahvinci, ChezidekKeida and the stylistically superior Jesse Royal.

It all starts off with Dre Island’s contemporary roots scorcher Live Forever and ends with an inspired dub version of the same track. In between these gems there are both dark and heavy and sweet and beautiful cuts. All are however influenced by dub mixing techniques and some explore booming hip-hop from the early 90s. The tempo is often slowly pulsating driven by rebellious bass lines and deadly drums.

An excellent compilation showcasing just how strong the reggae scene in Jamaica is at the moment.

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Goodbye SoundCloud

About ten years ago I got into podcasts and online-based reggae mixtapes, partly thanks to BMC and his excellent work. It was thanks to his mixes that I got interested in contemporary reggae. I listened to his mixtapes, sets that always credited artist, label and riddim when available. I later bought the cuts or the albums that I liked.

After a few years I decided to make my own mixtapes and I used his recipe – no full tracks and added audio effects. These mixtapes were not about making money or exploiting the artists, producers or labels. They were meant to promote the music that I love. I wanted other people to hear my current favorites and then buy what they liked. Just like I did and still do.

Mixtapes have been around for ages (remember cassettes?). But they have also always been something of a grey area. And now the people at SoundCloud – the largest online audio distribution service – have started to remove mixes from their site because of copyright violations.

SoundCloud’s policy is clear – uploading copyrighted material is not permitted. That’s fine and the way it should be. They have however been more tolerant about it when it comes to mixtapes and radio shows. But that’s in the past. They now have a more aggressive approach, maybe because of new agreements with major labels and copyright violation tracking services.

My mixes are among those that have been removed from SoundCloud. And just like many others I received no notification or warning.

The question is how this approach will effect SoundCloud in the long run. They have been enormously successful and have for years been the preferred choice for top DJ’s sharing their work to the world. Now I note that several DJs are turning to SoundCloud’s main competitor Mixcloud, a service that even has a SoundCloud Import function.

I enjoy being introduced to new music through listening to mixtapes and radio shows. Consequently, I will follow the DJs, their content and hang out more at Mixcloud. SoundCloud will probably still be the preferred choice for producers and labels for a while longer, but I have a feeling music lovers will follow the DJs. Where the consumers go, labels have to follow. And the circle is complete when Mixcloud has grown too big.

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