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 »