The fast-paced retro dub sound of Brighton producer and sound engineer Mike Pelanconi (aka Prince Fatty) has brightened up these pages before (see reggaemusic.org.uk 26th August 2012 and 18th June 2013). So too have the formidable amplifiers and speakers of Glasgow’s very own Mungo’s Hi-Fi, taking their name from the founder of their city and offering a full-on dub and dancehall reinvention of the classic live sound system (see reggaemusic.org.uk 2nd November 2011 and 5th May 2013). This new release from Mr Bongo Records puts Fatty and Mungo together in a serious sound system competition, each act reinventing five tracks from the other to generate a heavyweight dub-on-dub production.
The first five tracks offer Prince Fatty mixes of Mungo’s Hi-Fi, kicking off with ‘Herbalist’ (featuring Top Cat), followed by a languid ‘Scrub a Dub Style’ with no less than Sugar Minott on board, along with nice dub touches to the production. ‘Divorce A L’Italienne’ (featuring Marina P) comes over strongly with some neat chord changes and instrumental breaks atop the essentially ska rhythm. Up next are five Mungo mixes of Prince Fatty tracks, starting with their take on Hollie Cook’s ‘Sugar Water’ which generates a different deep-down electronic feel when compared to the version on her debut album (2011) and on the Fatty-produced ‘Hollie Cook in Dub’ (2012). Mungo also take on Hollie Cook’s ‘For Me You Are’, this time offering a relatively sparse digital reinvention of one of her stronger tracks. Mungo’s mix of ‘Dry Your Tears’ (featuring Winston Francis) offers up a slow and soulful version of the much covered song (try to hear for instance the recording from Bold One and Clint Eastwood from 1978) and in this rendering it could almost be Mungo’s Hi-Fi meet lovers’ rock. In contrast, ‘Horsemove’ (courtesy of Horseman) moves us firmly if implausibly into Wild Western territory. The mix of ‘Say What You’re Saying’ – featuring George Dekker – is darker and deeper than the earlier version on ‘Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler’ (2012).
The Mungo Hi-Fi mixes add typically deep and sometimes doomy electronic sounds in contrast to Prince Fatty’s characteristically brisk and joyful dubs, but it’s not quite that simple: the choice of tracks alongside the differing mixes makes this a happy release indeed.
Prince Fatty vs Mungo’s Hi-Fi, released 24th March 2014 on CD/vinyl/digital
There’s a convincing feel to the sound of Portsmouth-based dub/reggae trio Lord Tooth who compose and perform live original dub in a style very much inspired by the pre-digital Jamaican productions of the 70s. Their recorded sound is now starting to provide a more enduring record of their latter-day dub excursions. Their first EP ‘The Younger Dub’ was released on American dub/reggae online label Boom One Records last September, its title track providing a gentle and authentic-sounding take on the classic dub era while ‘Train Go By’ gives us a sharper echo-laden dub sound.
Elsewhere they can be found to turn in a version of ‘Roxanne’ which injects something new and slightly weird into the familiar skanking chords of that great reggae tune and you may even have the opportunity to locate a rather unexpected account of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ which works considerably better than might be expected. But their dubs are not all covers of old stuff, there is plenty of other material and its production quality on their recorded output is impressive indeed. Live, featuring bassist/vocalist Lyra Blackwa and instrumentalist Luxembourg, it should be even better.
Recorded in Kingston and in Tel Aviv, ‘Prisoner in Love’ is the first single release from Kalbata and Mixmonster’s forthcoming debut album on Freestyle Records. Their stated intention was to record an analogue dub album influenced by the early sound of dancehall and the classic style of producers such as King Tubby. With this in mind, they use a 16-track tape machine and an analogue mixing desk alongside – unusually enough – a group of musicians playing live throughout. After recording the instrumental tracks in Tel Aviv, they travelled to Jamaica and added the sound of selected vocalists and deejays to generate the intended retro sound. So in a sense this stands as homage to the reggae tradition upon which so much has since been built.
The measure of success is of course in the sound of the finished product. 80s’ dancehall pioneer Little John provides the powerful vocals for ‘Prisoner of Love’. The backing track provides a sparse and uncluttered rhythm upon which to base vocals that are as reminiscent of the soul songs of the time as they are of reggae. The single also includes a contrasting and more elaborate version of the same song featuring Kutiman, who adds manic keyboard and an upfront reggae rhythm to the basic bass and drum foundations of the song.
The ‘Prisoner of Love’ single is released on 17th March, with the debut album – ‘Congo Beat the Drum’ – due on 28th April (vinyl, CD and digital download).
Reggae/hip-hop duo Trinity Lo Fi generate their own distinctive latter-day digital sort of sound, uniquely straddling reference points in Scandinavia and the north of England. Working with Norwegian producers, Helgeland 8 Bit Squad, the Newcastle-based outfit (comprising Jody Bigfoot and Louie Zico) are aiming to perform this year at several venues in Norway and the UK including Boomtown Fair, Boom Bap Festival and what they say are “some more UK festival gigs to be confirmed.”
Trinity Lo Fi are currently planning their debut album for Summer 2014 release. Meantime their urgent and immediate take on dancehall/reggae/hip-hop comes over loud and clear in this clip, featuring Nordic production and the Get Carter-ish bridges of Newcastle.
This first release from Jago – vocalist with respected production team Hylu and Jago – gives us three different takes on a fine roots track The Wicked Try. Jago has previously featured as part of the onlyjoe reggae/dub outfit from the studios of Unit 137 (see previous reviews on reggaemusic.org.uk, most recently 16 June 2013). He is now carving out a distinctive name for himself in both recording and performance, with the prospect of a forthcoming debut album. This is the initial single release. Featuring also the sound system and DJ/MC talents of Serocee, Ghost Writerz and Junior Dangerous, The Wicked Try is a strong vocal excursion that can readily bear the weight of the two further versions to which it is subject here.
The first of these – a remix from DJ Vadim – is a full-on recasting of the original track, breaking it down into its component instrumental and vocal elements before returning to the repeating vocal anthem. With a hip-hop feel alongside the core reggae rhythm, it closes with some assertive electronic instrumentation which hints at the dubstep direction it could plausibly have taken. The second reworking on offer here is a dub version, rounding things off with a thoroughgoing deconstruction of the track. With elements of vocals and instrumentation fading in and out of the mix, the distinctive cross-genre studio skills of producer The Sea are evident, using his considerable engineering and production experience in Jamaica and London to powerful effect.
Issued on the Hundred Years label – a new platform for contemporary reggae/hip-hop output – it is well worth catching up with this release as a convincing example of the positive direction of UK reggae.
Jago: The Wicked Try; Hundred Years Records 12” vinyl/digital; released December 2013