On Jahcoustix’ seventh album he has once again teamed up with Austria’s Irievibrations, just like he did on Frequency and its more naked counterpart Acoustic Frequency. And the result is yet another marvellous album.
Seriously Positive is a telling title. This album is uplifting, comforting and charming and it’s easy to dream away when dwelling into the sympathetic arrangements and Jahcoustix’ fervid yet laid-back, sometimes almost lazy, vocal style, which is complemented on two tracks by Uwe Banton and Akae Beka aka Vaughn Benjamin, formerly Midnite’s frontman and lead singer.
This is a throw-back to vintage reggae and the organic sound owes quite a lot to rocksteady, especially the driving organ and the tight and beautiful harmonizing on several tracks, as exemplified on a cut like the insanely catchy Old Tongue.
Other highlights include the heartfelt When We Part, the breezy Soul Steady with its lingering piano, horns and guitar and the pulsating Too Brutal, which includes some kind of rapping in the verses.
According to the press release Jahcoustix voiced the entire set in just one day. That’s an achievement. But with masterful musicianship and top-notch arrangements it’s no wonder why he might have been on a creative high.
About 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.