This release from alternative hip-hop outfit The Scribes together with a host of collaborators and guests offers a bass-driven but subtle sound together with a collection of surprisingly melodic takes on urban themes and, well, whatever was on their mind at the time. Comprising Shaun Amos (The Scribes/Exposure Music Award’s Best UK Urban Act), multi instrumentalist and bass specialist Jake Galvin (Cosmo Jarvis/Bass Guitar Magazine) and singer/guitarist Jack Joyce (Spoken In Sonar), with contributions from a large team of others, this is hip-hop with feeling, not the empty material obsessions of the predictable kind of hip-hoppery that descends into self-parody. So we have a strong collection of songs to begin with: Buried (and for that matter Burning Bridges) leading with a guitar that’s somewhere between rock and funk; Heavy Wait similarly leading with guitar up-front (and also with a powerful remix of the same track concluding the album) while Pipe Dreams could most accurately be described as lyrical, not typically an adjective associated with hip-hop. Not a Dancer is a sparse and surprisingly effective mix of beats and piano. The somewhat unusual single Monsters appears to have Super Mario guesting on keyboard- but that’s OK, and you can see the weird video for yourself below. A really strong album that’s difficult to categorise, but that’s no bad thing. Melodic thoughtful hip-hop with soul: now, some PR company could definitely run free with that combination.

The Scribes Present Ill Literature: released October 7th on CD/Digital download, see http://www.scribesmusic.bandcamp.com

Prince Fatty’s distinctive fast-paced dub-production approach to some surprising tracks from a previous era was heard to great effect on his dub mix of Hollie Cook’s debut album (see review on reggaemusic.org.uk  29th April 2012). Here he crops up again with his unique reggae perspective on ‘Got Your Money’, previously the slightly plodding province of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), the former Wu-Tang Clan rapper himself. In its original incarnation this was instantly recognisable mainstream hip-hop, musically and lyrically. Here, Hollie Cook provides the female vocal input, along with Horseman in the ODB role. Implausibly enough, Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) has turned it into something closer to an uptempo dancehall anthem with Hollie Cook’s vocal contribution sounding surprisingly sweet in the chorus. This will be the lead track on Fatty’s forthcoming album ‘Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler’, due for September launch. As if that were not enough, the single is backed with Prince Fatty’s visitation upon that old Max Romeo song ‘Wet Dream’. Released originally in 1968 and banned by BBC radio, at that time the only music station legally transmitting, it has since been endured at many a wedding function, suggesting that Max Romeo’s alleged explanation that it was really about a leaking roof above his bed was less than accurate. This mix has some delightful vintage percussive keyboard, excellent dub production, along with the distinctive whooping contribution of Dennis Alcapone at key moments and there appears to be a cat in the mix somewhere. The multi-tracked vocals fit the song just right. Both tracks feature the Studio One veteran George Dekker and the production values are as good as it ever gets. On both tracks there’s something light and amusing about all this; it’s music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for that.

Prince Fatty: Got Your Money/Wet Dreams, Mr Bongo label, release 6th August

This original and in some ways surprising album from Oxford’s very own is a curious collection. With a live sound throughout, particularly in the mix of the bass and drums, there is a pervasive mood of urgency – put simply, being slightly frantic – as though time was running out fast and all these styles, songs and genres had to be squeezed into one (albeit very long) album before time ran out altogether.

The opening track – ‘Prophecy’ – is roots reggae in the old style to begin, before speeding-up and throwing in some guitar twiddlings that provide a direct bridge to the rock tradition from which the album also draws its numerous inspirations. ‘Ride Your Life Like a Bicycle’ (the initial single release) starts with some classic reggae chords, then proceeds toward some quirky Englishness, as though Syd Barrett had met the Specials one enchanted evening, fading out with a down-your-way harmony section, with its talk-over reminiscent of the light programme from the golden age of steam radio; what was it anyway with bicycles in the late 60s, the Prisoner and My White Bicycle aside? More »