Canada-based singer/songwriter Herrington Codner released his intriguing reggae-rock crossover album ‘Real’ earlier in the year; intriguing in the sense that it combined rock band instrumentation of a sometimes 70s vintage with reggae rhythms in a vital urban sound that isn’t easily identifiable with any other current bands. And all the better for that – the backwards-effect guitars on the title track of ‘Real’ and the reverb-heavy guitar-led ‘Hero’ make for an effective sound. ‘Justice for Freedom’ from the album is now scheduled for release as a single. It consists of a sharp guitar figure taking us into a powerful reggae rhythm, together with strong vocals around themes of justice and freedom; rock band guitar work around a simple but effective reggae song. It has a clear production and a clean mix unencumbered by effects and studio trickery, generating a live band sort of feel. It’s a world away from the contemporary European emphasis on studio-based digital reconstruction/deconstruction of reggae rhythms.
Summing up Herrington Codner’s overall musical niche isn’t too easy. Some of the tracks on the album are rock songs unrelated to reggae rhythms at all, as though Little Feat might have accidentally found themselves propelled forward in time a decade or two and been subjected willingly or otherwise to some unexpected influences but retaining a vintage feel all the same: Herrington Codner himself terms his musical style ‘ragwire’. The single release of ‘Justice for Freedom’ doesn’t seem particularly typical of all his output, but it is worth hearing as a strong reggae song in its own right as well as a fine introduction to Herrington Codner’s music.
Herrington Codner: ‘Justice for Freedom’ released 25th November 2013, Center Lane Records
Here is the second full album release of new material from London’s ‘The Manor’. Recorded at the Catch a Fire studio in London, it’s produced by Brad Turner and Gibsy Rhodes, and released on Smash N Grab, Gibsy Rhodes’ subsidiary label of Springline Jamaica. Last year’s well-received ‘Community Rocker’ by Yabass (see reggaemusic.org.uk 12th January 2013) was also released on Smash N Grab and that already high standard is easily matched here.
The overall mood of ‘Duppy Call’ is roots reggae with a melodic inspiration and a feeling of live instrumentation, but it is very far from being MOR reggae-lite. There’s a raw urgency and immediacy to the tracks on here and a sense of music being played rather than sounds being processed.
The album opens with ‘Jamming through the Night’, a mainstream live-reggae instrumental workout with echoing drum in the background, prominent guitar, sounding very much like the introduction to a live show just before the main act comes on – which in a sense it is as we hit the vocals of the second track, ‘Duppy Call’, a Marleyesque roots song in the classic style with some slightly unnerving background sounds (fitting the theme of the song) and a fine dub interlude. The pattern of instrumental and vocal tracks is repeated throughout. ‘Hard Work’ features vocals along with an instrumental dub sensibility, ‘I Know Jah’ is characterised by its powerful spiritual vocal treatment, while ‘Rocker’ is a strong instrumental.
‘So Fine’ is another great instrumental, with its skanking guitar and subdued guitar breaks mixed quite far back, and a loping sort of rhythm keeping it all together. That familiar image of the ‘Downpressor Man’ is represented here as a slowed-down melodic roots excursion with crystal-clear production. Like the album as a whole it seems to capture a live performance sound effectively in the studio. ‘Roots Rock Vibe’ is pretty much an accurate description. This collection closes with ‘Earth Roots’, a deliberate, almost stately, instrumental conclusion to the album, with a pronounced dub feel.
As a whole the album sounds live and immediate, with its melodica-styled instrumentation drifting over many of the tracks. Its sympathetic production complements the songs, making it one of the strongest releases from the Springline stable so far.
The Manor ‘Duppy Call’ released on Smash N Grab, 4th November 2013.
For this new hardback book, Ghana-born Belgian writer Joel Savage has interviewed some of the bigger names in recent and contemporary reggae, including Anthony B, Joseph Hill-Culture, Gregory Isaacs, U-Roy, Capleton, Julian Marley, Prince Malachi, Luciano, Lucky Dube, Julian Murvin, Andrew Tosh, ASWAD, Live Wyya, Seun Kuti, Femi Kuti, Faytinga, Manu Dibango, and Tutu Puoane. According to the information release: “In this book the writer speaks to some of the masters behind contemporary reggae and African music. The influence and impact of these great musicians is internationally known and is recounted with warm, sincere, and unrivalled craftsmanship that distinguishes them in the music world”. Alongside this is a photographic record of some of their reggae performances which helps to bring the topic alive.
Published by virtualbookworm.com publishing, September 2013
From Cyprus comes news of Dubophonic, a web-based label that offers freely downloadable Creative Commons licensed music in different variations on dub. To date Dubophonic has released six dub EPs/albums beginning in June 2013 with ‘Creation’ from Russian electronic dub experimenter Dub I. This initial release is a pretty unusual combination of electronic sounds and dub bass rhythms with vocal snatches here and there; it doesn’t have an immediate parallel with other performers or producers right now.
The second label release – ‘Guetto Roots of Dub vol 1’, from Argentina’s Negritage – offers a lighter and gentler take on dub which is all the more effective for its restraint. Next up was ‘Fils d’Abraham’ from French duo Djirbil and Faida, otherwise known as Zion Dirty Sound. This is a strong and highly eclectic mix of African, Latin and French influences, most clearly evident in the title track. On other tracks, particularly ‘Bye Bye Babylon’, the reggae inspiration is much stronger. The next Dubophonic release – ‘Dred Reggae’ by Cypress producer Med Dred (August 2013) – is a great 6-track EP in a retro style, opening with ‘Jahnoy’, an 80s-inspired dancehall intro giving way to classic-era echoing dub and even a melodica happily asserting itself. It continues with some fine reggae tunes and clear-cut production in a style that anyone who knows the reggae tradition will recognize, and enjoy. The ‘Mad Sunday EP’ brings us eight versions around the basic track from Mexico’s Yasser Serano (aka Mexican Stepper). This is surely the most appropriate pseudonym ever, given that the base track is indeed a steppers rhythm from Mexico, followed up with different dubs and mixes including an intriguing version courtesy of Mr Mefistou which manages to incorporate parts of an anti-imperialist speech from the Bolivian president.
The most recent release from Dubophonic is the Red Star Martyrs’ ‘I & I’ EP. The product of Birmingham musician and producer Stanley Wood, the politically-informed Red Star Martyrs are a collaborative outfit that on this release generate two tracks – ‘Insurrection’ and ‘Independence’ – that are treated to different versions (one-drop, steppers, vocal dub…) almost as a tutorial in reggae sub-genres. Excellent.
The label and its owner Dub Thomas are doing an interesting and valuable thing here in not only making this adventurous cross-cultural reggae music available, but in doing so for free. Here is the link to the Dubophonic site where you can learn more and also download all the music reviewed here; as always, reggaemusic.org.uk does not accept any responsibility for the content of external sites or any downloads from them.
From Unit 137 comes this new EP from London’s ten-piece onlyjoe, featuring four versions around the ‘Play With Fire’ track. It starts with a baseline vocal take on the title track, a crystal-clear roots sound with brass instrumentation and high-level production values that manages to sound very…musical. This is followed up with the Dubkasm remix, an extended and powerful/echo-ful dub treatment that gives way after a while to a more electronic rhythm and a fleeting reappearance of the vocals. The DJ Madd remix adds a further dubbed-up interpretation before the release concludes with a striking contribution from Hylu and Sleepy Time Ghost (whose own releases with Unit 137 have featured on reggaemusic.org.uk in the past.) This final track is a muscular reinvention of the song with an added dubstep foundation – an assertive dub stance with sounds and vocals flying in and out of the mix. A great way to conclude a refreshing little release.
onlyjoe: ‘Play With Fire’, released by Unit 137 on 12” vinyl and DDL, 14th October 2013.