Atmospheric and low-key on Bridge Over Troubled dreams

500x500After about six albums and 30 mixtapes French producer and beatmaker Atili Bandalero returns with another elegant album cleverly merging reggae and dub with electro, pop and jazz.

Bridge Over Troubled Dreams is a joint recoding with singer Prendy and collects nine cuts with a digital and incisive sound complete with dreamy melodica on several cuts. Prendy’s laid-back singing suits the stylish and sensual beats perfect.

Atili Bandalero and Prendy seduce the listener with catchy melodies and potent bass lines. The first two singles off the album – Got to Go and Tomorrow – are prime examples of this album’s greatness.

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Militant second album from France’s Ackboo

ackboo-invincibleFrench producer Ackboo – who is heavily inspired UK roots acts like Zion Train and Jah Shaka along with France’s own electro-dub maestro Kanka – is back with a new album, three years after his heavy-hitting debut Turn Up the Amplifier.

Invincible is in the same vein as its predecessor with a mix of mostly dub, reggae and electro. The amplifiers are turned up to unhealthy levels, the bass lines are muscular and the sonic landscape is frighteningly dark.

Brother Culture lends his tongue twisting skills to the grim title track, a cut that is said to be inspired by the progressive Mike Oldfield and comes with vicious keys, and the instrumental Caledon is pure evil with what sounds like Frankenstein’s carillon.

Ackboo has for this militant album assembled a number of well-known vocalists – Linval Thompson, Solo Banton, Horace Andy – but also lesser known talents like Maïcee and S’Kaya. This is warrior-style roots with conscious messages and calls for action. Acboo aims to unite and engage.

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Akae Beka’s Portals is memorable and mesmerizing

22187-Portals_20FINAL_20iTunes_20CoverAbout a year ago VI reggae trailblazers Midnite suddenly cancelled a U.S. tour and stated the reason being “a life changing medical emergency, convictions and revelations”.

Somewhat cryptic, but then again Midnite and their front man and vocalist Vaughn Benjamin have never been interested in the spotlight unless being on stage. He rarely gives interviews and rather study or writes and records music.

Later a new outfit surfaced, a band led by Vaughn Benjamin. Akae Beka is their name and it’s taken from the Book of Enoch. Akae Beka first stage performance took place in October last year and their debut album Homage to the Land was soon put out.

Now their second set has dropped. This one on I Grade Records, a Virgin Islands’ based label that has been an important partner to Midnite in their career. The label is spearheaded by Tippy I and the new Akae Beka album is produced by Zion I Kings, a production trio where Tippy I plays a key part.

In the press release accompanying Portals it’s stated that Akae Beka isn’t Midnite reborn, but a continuation of Vaughn Benjamin’s journey. Fans can however stay calm since this album both musically and lyrically lie very close to what Midnite did.

This is spiritual and Rastafarian roots reggae with conscious and introspective lyrics emphasizing commitment to Jah, justice, equality and universal love.

Vaughn Benjamin’s vocal approach is an acquired taste. It’s raw, monotonous and non-melodic. His vocal style is in need of an otherwise melodic sonic landscape. Otherwise it’s too raw. Luckily Zion I Kings have provided Akae Beka with heavily-textured arrangements and melodies from the players of instruments, but without failing to include dense grooves and hypnotic bass lines. The horns on Orderly are for example sublime and the guitar work is superb throughout the set.

Portals is powerful and spellbinding. It might not be commercially viable, but it’s memorable and mesmerizing.

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Around the world with Jugglerz

Jugglerz-City_2400x2400pxGerman label and production crew Jugglerz recently released a various artists compilation with an impressive line-up and a hefty 21 cuts. Singers and deejays from no less than eight countries are featured on Jugglerz City, which boasts a tasty mix of released and previously unreleased cuts. It almost has the feel of a cohesive mixtape, but with full tracks and no sound effects.

Jugglerz City gives a great chance of discover fresh one drop and lively dancehall as well as a new generation of singers and deejays since talents like Randy Valentine, Christopher Martin, Bugle, I-Octane, Jemere Morgan, Zagga and RC aka Righteous Child are included. The provide the set with youthful energy and vitality.

The highlights are numerous, but some of the brightest moments are Luciano’s Where Are the Hearts on Reggaemiles riddim, Randy Valentine’s album opener My Team, Miwata’s pulsating Daylight and Christopher Martin’s Is It Love with its underlying infectious keyboard hook.

J Boog does what he does best on Worth My Time – sun-drenched reggae – while Etana shows a different and fiercer side on Money is the Motive. This Beenie Man combination is ska-fueled dancehall turning into a frenzy.

Jugglerz has managed to get the best out of a number of highly talented artists.

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Positive vibes on Dactah Chando’s Ansestral

DactahChando_AncestralmixI often think that I have a rather good view of the current European scene, but time after time I find solid albums from artists that I’ve never heard of, even though they have been around for several years.

Canarian reggae singer and devoted surfer Dactah Chando is one of those artists. He started his career in 2009 and dropped his debut album two years later. And a few months ago he put out his fourth set Ansestral.

It’s a great album produced and mixed by Umberto Echo with backing vocals provided by no other than German songstress Sara Lugo. Together they have created an album full of positive vibes with an often relaxed atmosphere.

I Chant offers heavy percussion and nyabinghi influences, while Alto Grado has a dub-infused sonic landscape. Vive sounds like a bouncy Augusts “Gussie” Clarke production from the late 80s and on My Yut Dactah Shando gets in a singjay mode.

Another solid and rootsy set from showcasing the thriving European reggae scene.

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Roots and comfort on Hornsman Coyote’s Safe Planet

HornsmanCoyote_Soulcraft_SafePlanetSerbian trombone maestro and vocalist Hornsman Coyote has once again teamed up with Soulcraft for a new album. Safe Planet collects ten tracks with rich arrangements and live-played rhythms complete with a solid horn section that is present throughout the excellent album.

The eight-piece band has with Safe Planet created wonderful and beautiful rootsy grooves with minor chord melodies and somber vibes.

Glorious comes with angelic three-part harmonies strongly reminiscent of The Congos and Jah Sun celebrates life with its poignant flute and close harmonizing. Jericho is the only instrumental and it adds some militancy to the album with its steady bass line, galloping percussion and mournful horns.

The set closes with Flower Fields, a cut adding slices of rock energy to an otherwise rather low-key album. Certainly a very cohesive and well-crafted effort.

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Romantic reggae on J Boog’s Rose Petals

JBoog-Rose-PetalsTalented U.S. reggae singer J Boog recently dropped a new five track EP titled Rose Petals, a set where Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Chaka Demus and Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion contributes with verses on one track each.

It has been three years since J Boog released more than a single and this new EP is certainly very welcome. It offers contemporary and bouncy romantic – sometimes leaning towards the lewd – reggae with highlights such as the Chaka Demus combination Good Cry and the slick title track.

Brighter Days is sunny stadium reggae with an infectious sing-a-long chorus and motivational lyrics, while Good Feeling is a version of Dee Sharp’s lovers rock anthem Let’s Dub It Up. Snoop Dogg appears on the racy and funky No Pressure, a bonus cut which, according to The Island Sound, was recorded already in 2012.

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Sara Lugo & Friends is balm for the soul

Sara Lugo & Friends_cover_2400pxSara Lugo started her career as backing vocalist for German producer and mixing engineer Umberto Echo’s productions. She moved to the spotlight when her breezy debut album What About Love was put out in 2012 and with its superb follow-up Hit Me With Music she cemented her reputation as one of Europe’s finest singers.

In her career she has recorded a number of excellent combinations with a variety of artists ranging from Jamaican stars like Lutan Fyah and Protoje to Indonesian singjay Ras Muhammad and Swiss born chanter Cali P.

These fine efforts are now – together with ten more cuts – collected on the glorious Sara Lugo & Friends, a melodious set with multi-national vibes. It pulls together previously released tracks along with new songs recorded over a variety of riddims, both originals and relicks.

Sara Lugo & Friends is a sultry and soulful album where Sara Lugo’s light, breezy and effortless singing is exquisitely matched with both riddims and collaborators. Stay close to the repeat button.

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Raw energy on Dreadsquad and Blackout JA’s World Destruction

SF032-artwork-world-destruction-1000x10001Gravel-voiced UK chanter Blackout JA has joined forces with eclectic Polish producer Dreadsquad on the aptly titled set World Destruction, an album where Blackout JA rages against corruption, police brutality and poverty.

Two singles have so far been lifted from World Destruction and they showcases two completely different sonic landscapes. Last Tune is a hard and heavy UK steppers cut designed to mash up sound system dances, while the Edwyn Collins cover A Girl Like You is delicate and gracious with its elegant melodica and slick organ.

Best of the bunch is however the steady one drop Innocent Persecution, the bouncy 80s sounding Never Give In and the aggressive Police Brutality, where message and vocal style blend perfect together.

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Funky and sensual on Rising Tide’s debut album

Core members of internationally renowned U.S. reggae band Groundation has formed a new outfit – Rising Tide – and they have recently put out their self-titled debut album.

Harrison Stafford – lead vocalist and front man in Groundation – is not onboard the project and is expected to drop a solo piece later this year. And for those who are fans of Groundation, but struggle with Harrison Stafford’s nasal singing style, much like myself, will be very pleased with this set.

Rising Tide has on this album created an earthy sound combining elements of roots reggae, jazz, R&B and funk. It’s a cohesive set with a variety of singers sharing vocal duties, including songstresses Kim Pommel, Sherida Sharpe, Faith Waltson and Roselyn Williams along with French singjay Naâman, the Garnett Silk-influenced Lymie Murray and SOJA’s Jacob Hemphill.

The music reflects the 70s with jazzy improvisations – almost jam band like – and several songs are stretched out taking unexpected directions. The grooves are soft and sensual, just listen to the mystic Young, Strong and Beautiful, and funky and cool, check a cut like Positive Vibes, which sounds like legendary funk band Parliament could have recorded in a smoky Kingston studio.

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