The excellent debut album from Dublin band After the Ibis was reviewed on these pages a year ago (ReggaeMusic.org.uk 1st June 2014). Now comes the belated release of the first single from the album. Entitled ‘Dig Up’, it’s a strong and slow-burning song, melancholy in feel, and musically powerful.
The song was written and produced by the band, with mixing and mastering from Jim Fox of Lion & Fox recording studio in Washington, DC. About the writing process, trumpet player Cillian Kenny says: “we write in a very organic way…all eight of us have very different musical backgrounds and we never know how a song is going to end up from when we have the first demo. We love to obsess over composition and there’s nothing like playing the tracks live for the first time to know what the crowd gets behind and what we still need to refine.”
Especially distinctive on this single is its Irish vocal sound – nothing faux-Jamaican or mid-Atlantic here – with Clare O Kennedy in fine voice, along with its sympathetic production. The instrumentation of the song is thoughtful and subtle – illustrating perhaps more effectively than any other band how the inspiration of the reggae tradition can inform new original work like this.
This new album from eight-piece Dublin reggae band After the Ibis is an unexpected pleasure: the strong and confident songs, the production values and the mature feel of both the instrumentation and the vocals make for a striking debut album. After the Ibis have played alongside some key reggae names including Toots and the Maytals, Max Romeo, Third World, the Tosh/Marley Band, The Skatalites and Junior Marvin so maybe that has somehow rubbed off. The ten tracks of ‘Busy Waiting’ are of a relatively even tempo, with something of an overall melancholy feel. The lyrics are thoughtful and the sound is crystal clear throughout.
As for specifics, the title track is melodic and simple, while ‘Dig Up’ (the initial single release from the album) is a quietly angry take on the world – a surprising (but brave) choice for a single release, given that it is not exactly upbeat happy clappy reggae. The live track included here – ‘Busy Dubbing’ – has an excellent mix and production, full of echo and the spirit of the original dub era. ‘Fallen Soldier’ has a lead guitar sound straight from rock, and inevitably invites comparison with ‘Zombie’ (both thematically and in terms of its arresting vocal delivery). There’s some nice percussive keyboard (as on ‘Room is on Fire’) from the old reggae tradition, while ‘Light My Fuse’ is a soulful and sweet song to complement the other tracks here. This all makes for a powerful debut release indeed.
After the Ibis: ‘Busy Waiting’. Digital release May 2014; CD June