To coincide with Lee Stratch Perry’s 80th birthday this new film is a celebration of his massive and eccentric contribution to reggae. It can be seen via UK film screenings around the country in February and March, and subsequently through DVD and Video On Demand (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Netflix). Mr Perry will also perform live at some UK dates in March.
If you are reading this you will already be familiar with Lee Perry’s unique musical career, starting with his work for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s label in the late 1950s, a further apprenticeship at Joe Gibbs’s Amalgamated Records, before setting up his own label (and eponymous house band) the Upsetter in 1968. He built the legendary Black Ark Studio in 1973 where he produced records for no less that Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos and Max Romeo. Along the way he pretty much created what we came to know as dub and at the time of writing he’s still going strong.
Vision of Paradise is directed by Volker Schaner who followed Perry around Jamaica, Ethiopia, Switzerland and London to the point where he could gain an insider’s perespective on Perry’s idiosyncratic world. The film includes footage of Perry himself and of a stellar cast of dub/reggae musicians together with original animated scenes by the artist Maria Sargarodschi, drawn from different elements of Perry’s psychic world. There is also a look inside Lee Perry’s remarkable ‘laboratory’ in Switzerland, now destroyed by fire, but recorded here forever. The DVD version includes a host of extras, including a book and some deleted scenes. In whatever format, this release takes us inside a completely unique world.
Violinbwoy (Wojciech Przysiezny) is a musician and producer from Wroclaw in Poland who specialises in dub. His tracks are certainly informed by the sounds of past dub masters but nonetheless have a vital up to date feel. He has previously been known for releases such as the Angelino Heights EP (2014) which rocks along firmly but gently. This new EP, Mono County, consists of eight tracks, with four vocal tracks followed by their dub versions. With guest vocalists David One Away, Dan I Locks and Dan I, the EP opens with Rumors of War (featuring David One Away), a brooding roots sound with a familiar sense of foreboding in its lyrics, followed by its version, Dub of War, which powers ahead strongly with repeat and delay effects used just right to keep up the pressure. The other tracks- More Songs (featuring Dan I Locks), Hold unto Jah, and Mammoth Lakes – are each followed by their dubs, making a tight and strong collection of new music. Mammoth Lakes in particular is notable for Violinbwoy’s expertise on- perhaps not surprisingly – the violin. The EP concludes with the doomy dub of the same track.
Violinbwoy: Mono County, released in 2 x 12“ vinyl/digital formats, Moonshine Recordings, 22nd January 2016
Damas (Christopher Williams) is a young roots reggae/dancehall artist from Kingston, recognised for his breakthrough EP, ‘Natty Take Ova’ in 2013. He has released a number of successful singles, including ‘Rasta Universal Love’ (2010), ‘Blood Shedding’ and ‘My Life’ and his music is infused with the spiritual and religious message of the classic roots sound. In 2012 he was discovered by the Italian-based reggae band Mellow Mood, upon whom Damas’s work was a major influence. He recorded the song ‘Free Marijuana’ and, subsequently, the ‘Natty Take Over’ EP. Thereafter his associated company of the same name has taken care of production, merchandising and marketing of his music. His latest release, ‘Red Hot’, is conscious and energetic dancehall-leaning reggae in the received style, with powerful production and a forceful sound: contemporary roots for the troubled world with its apocalyptic musical message.
The eight-piece Brighton band King Porter Stomp have developed their own trademark reggae, ska and hip-hop style, made to be played and heard live, and their releases always have the immediacy associated with live performance. A year after their single ‘Warning’ (see reggaemusic.org.uk 25th November 2014), the band release their new political reggae-rock single ‘Put Down Your Weapons’. Recorded and mixed by Brighton’s own renowned reggae producer Prince Fatty at his Ironworks Studio, this is a strong record with the high production values you’d expect. It’s melodically simple and all the more effective for that: a gentle intro giving way to relaxed chilled-out roots reggae with its powerful message of peace. With minimalist production, the sound is dominated by brass, vocals, and an almost grungy guitar somewhere in the background. Added to this is a live dub version of the track courtesy of Prince Fatty himself. ‘Put Down Your Dub’ is a great old-style dub held together by bass and prominent drums, sparse rather than cluttered with effects and over-production, and definitely worthy of attention.
King Porter Stomp: Put Down Your Weapons, release November 2015, Feet Up Records.
Here comes a new seven-track EP from alternative hip-hoppers the Scribes. the title of which might well have been a Kinks album from the late 60s. In contrast, it’s a sci-fi tale of an apocalyptic future and a rather nasty turn of events for life as we know it. Making the end of the world entertaining is a staple of Hollywood but less so in contemporary music; this release is an innovative attempt at tackling this theme.
Things open up with a spoken-word introduction to a dystopian landscape that makes old variations on the theme – like Things to Come – seem very tame in comparison and then it gets into its hip-hop hook. Along the way are some electronic references to bands such as Kraftwerk (in the ‘new world’) – references accentuated by the robotic theme – along with some rapid hip hoppery (in ‘the fight’). It’s very different from other current music, and for that matter it’s different from what the Scribes have offered us before (for instance see reggaemusic.org.uk 3rd February 2015). Not quite the next Merry Christmas Everybody but it’s new, different and impressive in its own terms.
The Scribes: Mr Teatime and the End of the World, release 11th December 2015 on Reel Me Records