Kioko: Let’s Be Frank

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

The Moods: Missing Peace

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

Double Tiger: Sharp and Ready

Here is Brooklyn boy Double Tiger (aka Jay Spaker) with his first solo album, a compilation of recordings from the past five years of writing. Just released on leading NY label Easy Star Records, ‘Sharp and Ready’ kicks off with the fast reggae rhythm of ‘Rocking Time’, a great start to this collection of twelve tracks. ‘Crème de Crème’ and ‘Babylon Expire’ follow up at a more sedate pace, but again firmly in the roots tradition. With strong vocals and relatively understated instrumental arrangements this is new music with the classic feel. ‘Live Life’ starts with some fine dub sounds before heading into a dancehall-influenced vocal, adding up to a particularly strong track. The title track, together with ‘Moonlight’, are instrumental workouts informed by dub, while ‘A Feelin’ borrows inspiration from the sound of soul. ‘Time Has Come’ echoes with the political demands for social justice, and the album closes with ‘Ram Dancehall’, a fine deejay-dancehall track. This is a happy release from an artist/producer steeped in the received message of reggae and with a track record of working with some of the reggae greats. It should propel Double Tiger to a deserved level of wider recognition.

Double Tiger: Sharp and Ready, released on Easy Star Records, 30th June 2017.