The European digital reggae scene is thriving and a number of strong albums have been released in recent months. First it was Tonto Addi’s debut set Dancehall Showcase, then it was Dr. Ring-Ding’s playful Dig It All and just a few weeks ago French trio Stand High Patrol dropped their smoky A Matter of Scale.
Another strong and vital set is French producer, DJ and beatmaker Atili Bandalero’s Closed Circuit; an album where he has invited seven deejays and singjays to showcase their talent over nine tracks. It was put out in mid-December last year and is now available for free download over at Bandcamp.
And there are at least nine good reasons to head over there – Prendy’s Tomorrow, Speng Bond’s Sweet Like Sugar, Joseph Cotton’s Kicks and Have Fun, Green Cross’ Boom Skeng, Gappy Ranks’ Gone, Biga Ranx’ Video Game and the two tough cuts where Joseph Cotton, Biga Ranx, Green Cross and Baby Boom take turn on the microphone.
Closed Circuit is rooted in the mid-80s digital reggae scene. The arrangements are straightforward, the tempo often high and sometimes it feels like you are listening to a reggae-oriented soundtrack to a Nintendo video game. Listen to a few familiar samples on Biga Ranx’ Video Game and you’ll know what I mean. Especially if you were growing up in the 80s.
In early 2011 I didn’t know much about the reggae scene in Bristol, a city in south west England with about a million residents. But thanks to the compilations Bristol Reggae Explosion 1 & 2 from Bristol Archive Records I’ve been enlightened about the city’s musical reggae heritage with bands such as Black Roots and Cool Runnings.
The third edition in the series is titled Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 – The 80’s Part 2 and digs deep in 80’s Bristol, even though a lone track from 1979 has been included. It collects 15 tunes, of which no less than eleven are previously unreleased, from a variety of mainly obscure singers and bands.
This set leans more towards roots reggae compared to the previous compilations, and the opening track Jah Praises from Revelation Rockers – who later changed their name to Talisman – sets the standard and mood. Talisman is also represented with the less roots oriented Takin’ the Strain and Lick & Run.
If you have heard the previous editions you might recognize some of the names on the album. Bunny Marrett, Joshua Moses, Alfred McIntosh and Ron Green are some of the artists that happily enough turn up once again.
Two of the strongest cuts are however from Zion Band – later Restriction – with the relentless roots scorcher Babylon Fire/Babylon Dub, taken from a scarce vinyl release, and Popsy Curious’ apocalyptic Chant Down Bobby Rome.
Even though part of the title indicates an 80’s vibe with lush synthesizers and bombastic syndrums, it’s far from the truth. Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 provides an overview of the many reggae styles found in Bristol, but with a rootsy edge.
Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 drops on CD, limited edition LP and digital download on March 19th.