Monday, December 27, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - December 23/10

We're barely past the solstice and already we're deep into the Cold Weather. For most of North America, that signals the end of the reggae season.

Reggae as we all know is skankin' on the beach music with a bottle of Red Stripe in each hand.

Never mind the reality that reggae and dancehall are more entrenched, discussed and distributed than ever before, and that quality releases in long and short form varieties continue to be issued throughout the year.

However, as I have of late dwelt on the perception of music as much as the expression of music, mass media and even prominent blogs continue to ignore reggae unless the weather is right. Year end lists of pop music seem to be more narrow than ever. Hip hop rightly graduated to such lists many years ago (and Kanye has demonstrated that a hip hop album can actually epitomize a year - take that, Arcade Fire!), but for all the promise contained in the breezy aphorism "I don't care where it comes from, good music is good music", rock-based music from the United States, Britain, and here of course, Canada continues to represent the vast majority of pop year-end lists. Where is Gyptian's "Hold You", or for that matter the soca hit of the decade JW & Blaze's "Palance", both of which moved millions of bodies this year? Getting deeper, it's not as though tropically-derived music isn't massively popular in North America, it's just that we fail to paint a true picture of ourselves in terms of musical activity (maybe social activity too, Toronto?) when the ends of years/decades necessitate one. For the umpteenth year, music lags far behind food, movies, and cuisine in terms of critical endorsement of widespread popularity.

Jahdan's new album Babylon Nightmare isn't going to change that - especially with a December 2010 release all but guaranteeing it will be forgotten by December 2011. Too bad. This is a fine record which combines hip hop with upfull reggae in a way that a wider swath of North Americans should get with. Babylon Nightmare is no simple grafting of hip hop beats onto reggae basslines, it's a virtuous circle in which reggae hooks and hip hop rhythms combine in ways that make them difficult to tease them apart. Discreet acoustic guitars, string flourishes and bits of reggae's past (Ras Michael, Eek A Mouse) add variety. In short, it's a reggae album that should play well with all kinds of hip hop influenced music of these sub-arctic climes.

Perhaps the lyrics, which dwell on traditional Rasta concerns of living right and denouncing the ways and means of Babylon, may not be as accessible as the music (so few reggae artists on this continent have found ways to address cold weather themes of urban isolation and working against natural elements to survive. Jahdan had a great song on his last album which hit some of these nerves) but in terms of delivery, Jahdan is always a wonder. Switching off easily between singing and chanting, his dexterity in bending a phrase around several bars is his primary appeal. This is no criticism of the substance of the lyrics; just that cultural reggae lyrics tend not to appeal to the unconverted.

Thanks to Jahdan's association with Major Lazer, Dutty Artz et al, this should go further than a typical reggae release, but I can only hope that someone like Jody Rosen at Rolling Stone (writing about Busy Signal's "fearsome flow and great taste in beats" on D.O.B.) will take notice and consider this album as an important, memorable album regardless of genre.

Of course, I'm still here running my mouth, bringing today's crucial rhythms and textures to a mass audience FWIW. I may not be on the front lines of every style, but I'll always strive to build and reinforce the big tent. Que Viva CIUT!


a wah dat - junior dread (trojan)
christmas day pt 1 - les kilimambogo (nairobi)
arbolito - willie colon & hector lavoe (fania)
christmas in jamaica - brent dowe (studio one)
let's try - heptones (studio one/heartbeat)
cocody rock (dub) - alpha blondy (shanachie/vp)
rewind - jahdan blakkamoore (lustre kings)
humano - lido pimienta rmx by sonora (no label)
si hecho palante - ticklah (easy star)
blast off - sonnymoon (plug research)
to care (like you) - james blake (a&m)
underground (fat freddy's drop vs. celeda) - le freak selector (no label)
zuluairlines - bert on beats (man)
nahoda - damily (unknown)
what do you think happens when you get too far from your house? - peripheral vision (no label)
space jungle funk - oneness of juju (strut)
no matter what - nicole mitchell black earth strings (delmark)
crime in the pale moonlight - flanger rmx by rashad becker (nonplace)
ruff way - rhythm & sound feat. tikiman (burial mix)
lakeviews - resoe (echochord)
bearcat dreads - john hornak (no label)
rubadub anthem - high tone rmx by twelve (jarring effects)
tired of fighting - menahan street band (dunham)
funky in here - dayton sidewinders (funkadelphia)
get down santa - the jive turkeys (colemine)
christmas tree - king stitt (studio one)

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