Produced and recorded by Doktor Lond in his ‘Doktor Lond Live Dub Mixing Studio’, here is a sharp set of rhythm tracks featuring Doktor Lond on keyboards, synths, drum programs and other percussion which is enhanced further by the decisive vocal contribution of Agarfa. Although entirely new, this material has the sense and feel of roots reggae. The album opens with ‘Steppin’ Up’, a slow synth-led roots song which, if you were to imagine it with a Marley-era guitar and bass arrangement would not have been out of place in the Lyceum. A similar comment can be made about ‘Rise Up’ with its faith-based lyrics on the vocal version, closely followed by its dub which very much adopts a vintage dub template in its overall sound and mix. The splendidly named ‘spiritual disco mix’ of ‘7 Days and 7 Nights’ comes in at over nine minutes of eastern-tinged instrumentation, with soulful vocals from Agarfa and a strong melodic thread running throughout, resolving itself midway through into a dub/version instrumental excursion around the basic rhythm – a strong track that marks this out as a serious album.
‘Move It Up’ is a faster paced roots song, followed again by a separate instrumental version which is more inventive than it seems at first, using the bass and percussive structure of the classic dub style, but adding a lot more contemporary electro/synth instrumentation over the top and ultimately leaning toward the dubstep end of reggae. ‘Messiah’ is another devotional roots track, again followed by its dub or what is termed here, accurately enough, its ‘percussive meditation dub mix’. The vocal and dub treatments of ‘Don’t Be a Victim’ are based on a persistent bass pattern and a percussion that invokes, if anything, latter-day drum-and-bass. The album closes as it began with ‘Steppin’ Up’, this time in a traditional dub version, but before that there is ‘Swane Koko’ in its curious ‘sugar my porridge disco mix’, an intriguing mixture of vocals, sweeping keyboard, synthesiser and dub, coming in at over ten minutes.
This all amounts to a collection that is clearly inspired by the roots reggae tradition but is delivered through a medium of electronically generated sound, with significant contemporary influences, prominent percussion, and, running throughout, the rich vocals of Agarfa. Quite a mix. Strangely enough, despite the digital programmed sound, the album manages to retain a live and immediate feel: it remains unpolished, in a good way.
Doktor Lond featuring Agarfa ‘Rise Up and Love’; release 7th September (Roots Lab Intl label, CD and download)