Mungos-Hi-Fi-770Ah, bicycles. A topic not unfamiliar in popular music from Queen through to Melanie (although admittedly rollerskates also featured prominently in the latter case.) The list could go on but it would only get worse: the Mixtures or Engelbert Humperdinck (bicyclettes indeed). But it must be said that the bicycle has yet to find its proper role within reggae music. This glaring omission has now been addressed by Glasgow’s own favourite sound system, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, who are back on the web pages of reggaemusic.org.uk with ‘Bike Rider’.

The track is taken from Mungo’s forthcoming album ‘Serious Time’, due for release on 2nd June 2014. The album as a whole promises vocal appearances from guests including Soom T, Peter Metro and no less than Cornel Campbell. Meantime, ‘Bike Rider’ is the characteristic dub-laden Mungo sound, with the production clear and creative throughout, and a deep and powerful bass providing the foundation for the driving rhythm track and the guest vocals from French dubber Pupajim. ‘I don’t need no gasoline with my bicycle machine’. Exactly.

fatty 2The 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

Mungo’s Hi Fi, the Glasgow sound system pioneers, have established a formidable reputation for their live sound and for their ability to reproduce the feel of a live performance on some vital releases for their Scotch Bonnet label (see earlier review at reggaemusic.org.uk 2nd November 2011).

This new album gives us another instalment of their unique take on reggae and dancehall, filtered once more through their characteristic full-on sound-system approach. This time partnered with Kenny Knots, the results are striking. Some of the tracks are very much in the dancehall tradition, notably Brand New Bangarang itself, and along the way One Life to Live and Rock Inna Dancehall. But there are several other things happening here too. She Got Love for Me is melodic reggae with some dubstep twiddlings going on under the surface, while Sweet Meditation and Gimme Gimme are, at heart, old-school reggae tunes given the Mungo makeover of deepest electronic bass and tightest rhythm. Word Sound and Power (featuring Mikey Murka) is a slower reggae song in a deejay style. The album closes on an unusual and powerful note, So Me Stay held together by a sparse and anthemic electronic sound that will be widely and loudly heard.

For those familiar with Mungo’s Hi Fi, two things are surprising in this release: the masterful vocal contribution of Kenny Knots and the strength and power of the songs themselves. It takes the sound system beyond its previous boundaries and, more important, it manages to expand the scope of contemporary reggae. And for those unfamiliar with Mungo’s Hi Fi – well, start here.

Formats: CD (with two bonus tracks), vinyl and DDL, released May 2013 on Scotch Bonnet Records.

Scotland’s very own bass-driven sound system is well known on the live circuit, whether from their residency in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street or from forays further south and beyond. It’s a full-on dub sound-system-sound with a dancehall feel, bass turned to 11 and a digital no-escape blast of pure volume. Following previous releases on their own Scotch Bonnet Records imprint, this new album presents a selection of fifteen tracks, sequenced as they would appear in a live sound system show. Starting off with Sugar Minott’s ‘Scrubadub Style’, this provides a deceptively sparse introduction over a Mungo riddim before the bass kicks in and sets out the agenda for what is about to follow, beginning with Pacey’s take on ‘Everyman Different’ (familiar maybe from Errol Dunkley’s version). The bass gets serious with ‘Computer Age’ from Mr Williamz in a rub-a-dub style, the lyrics managing to include Mungo’s web address and possibly reggae’s first mention of a modem.

Pupa Jim’s ‘Boat People’ provides thoughtful consciousness lyrics to counteract the expectations of some that a potent mix of sound must rule out meaningful words. Omar Perry’s ‘Dem No Like It’ sits atop a deep and slow riddim, while the excellent ‘Bad Bad Boy’ from Soom T contrasts markedly, with a riddim that almost hints at rocksteady. Soom T also contributes the very different ‘Soundboy Police’. Ranking Levy’s ‘New York Boogie’ draws from earlier reggae riddims in its style, as does the loping sound of Zeb and Scotty’s ‘Warm Up’ which is almost reminiscent of the 80s style of, say, Clint Eastwood and General Saint. The well-regarded Gentleman’s Dub Club add the slightly strange but intriguing closing sound of ‘High Grade’. More »