From Hollie Cook (see reggaemusic.org.uk 29 April 2012 and 9 July 2014) comes a fine new single on Merge Records. ‘Freefalling’ is a slow and sweet reggae ballad, while ‘Survive’ is a melodic reggae song in a retro mood, both tracks featuring guitar that could have been beamed in from another time and both with restrained and heartfelt vocals. The tracks are taken from Hollie Cook’s forthcoming third album, ‘Vessel of Love’, due in January 2018, and follow the release of lead single from that album ‘Angel Fire’.

The new single is a contemporary take on lovers’ rock produced by renowned producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glover. It moves Hollie Cook on from the dub-heavy sound of her previous two albums to a more mature and measured take on reggae, brimming with love and warmth.

Hollie Cook: Freefalling/Survive single on Merge Records, October 2017

This release from the Friendly Fire house band features exclusive Jam Jah dubplates and pre-release songs, totalling 31 tracks in all. It’s good fun, with that characteristic dubplate voiceover leading us from one track to the next. The Jamaican and British reggae artists concerned include Luciano, Kabaka Pyramid, Myki Tuff, Lion Art, Mr Williamz, Tippa Irie, YT, Duane Stephenson and Al Campbell plus many others. The dubplate gives us some clue to the variety of rhythms at the disposal of the Friendly Fire Band. This selection is played live and voice-overed at the band’s dubplate studio, the nerve-centre of this dub-heavy world.

Friendly Fire Band: All Stars Mixtape (Jam Jah Sound), September 2017

From our friends at Ramrock Records here comes a fine new EP from Dan Cohen, who was added to Glastonbury Festival’s ‘2014 Emerging Talent Competition’ and performed for 17,000 on the main stage at the Village Green Festival. Comprising the original track and two remixes it’s definitely worth a listen. It kicks off with the source track of ‘Find a Way’, a slow-paced straight-ahead reggae song with vintage-feel brass, followed by Ashley Beadle’s remix which cuts out some of the instrumentation but retains the lively bass and the strong vocals. The third track is Wrongtom’s Echolocation dub mix, taking us into another world altogether – an echoing dubbier land, culminating in a rich soundscape. Good to hear such music being produced for our edification as summer gives way to chillier times.

DB Cohen ‘Find a Way’, digital release 11th September 2017; 10” vinyl release due early October.

Kioko is a six-strong Birmingham based ska/reggae band who, with this new release, are following-up their previous EP True What They Say (2014). Guitarist Jon Brown acknowledges Kioko’s inspiration in the sounds of Kiko Bun, Alton Ellis and in the latter-day productions of Prince Fatty. With these points of reference the results should be good, and this latest EP does not disappoint. The music of the band is unapologetically linked to the currently dismal political scene in Britain and in this respect nods in the direction of bands like the Specials who flourished in similarly troubled times.

Musically the EP is personal in its tone as well as politically-inspired. ‘Kioko Skank’ is fine old-school reggae. The title track is melodic reggae music, accompanied by a strong dub version of the same song. ‘Kiss Away’ has a softer feel, kiss away the pain…while ‘Tired of Lying’ is back in the thoughtful reggae groove. A great little EP.

The band has toured with no less than international legends such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, The Wailers and The Specials, and in the studio this EP was recorded and produced by Spider Johnson, famed as the previous bandleader for Lee Perry and as a member of the respected Dubwiser (see reggaemusic.org.uk 1st November 2011). Go and listen.

Kioko: Let’s Be Frank EP, released May 2017 on Avant Garde Music

Currently playing dates throughout the UK, the nine-strong Moods are a Manchester band who succeed in blending hip-hop and dancehall influences with a political perspective on northern urban life. ‘Missing Peace’ is their forthcoming album and further strengthens their growing reputation.

Amongst individual tracks, ‘POP (People Over Profit)’ is fast uncompromising hip-hop, giving way to ‘Inception’, a reggae rhythm with hip-hop vocal sound and strong instrumentation. ‘Bad Boy’ takes us into grime and maintains the hard edge of the album. The debut single ‘Joy’ has a strong influence of drum and bass and is a melodic track with the potential to break through to new audiences. Given the overall style of this track and some of the others such as ‘Hidden’ it is almost possible to imagine the XX covering some of the songs, implausible though that may sound.  The title track, ‘Missing Peace’ is an effective reggae/hip-hop track in the band’s characteristic style, maybe the strongest song on the album. The publicity information for this release describes the band as Manchester’s ‘premier electro hip-hop reggae outfit’ who will ‘make you dance and then they’ll make you think’. That just about sums it up.

The band is due to return to their roots in September to launch the album at Manchester’s O2 Ritz on 8th September.

The Moods: Missing Peace, release 23rd September 2017 on A1 (M) Records