News, reviews and commentary on afrobeat and related music from Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Archives" : New Growth Roots Reggae

Archives (ESL Music)
by David McDavitt

Navigating a modern musical landscape littered with the detritus of bland forgettable songs with plastic production, many of us yearn to return to 1970’s reggae when musicality reigned and experts were at the controls. Take heart, a new release has recalibrated the standard for reggae recordings!

If you seek timeless reggae with depth and breadth, add Archives to your collection. The Archives’ self titled CD is a masterpiece of roots rock reggae. A stunning accomplishment for a first release, the album was collectively written and arranged by a working band. Synthesizing inspiration from reggae’s zenith, the Archives have surpassed emulation, hewing unique and engaging contours into the roots-rock.

The Archives pay homage to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Beres Hammond, Augustus Pablo, The Skalalites, Black Uhuru, and Steel Pulse, but fashion an utterly original identity. The Archives smelt many elements from reggae’s periodic table into a new sonic alloy, fusing hints of dancehall, ska, r&b, funk and even Latin rock into the mix.  Archives is a musically sophisticated album crafted by seasoned masters: a beacon of knowledge, talent, vision and execution. Writing includes dramatic keys, climatic bridges, and lyrics that are simultaneously memorable and yet poetically oblique enough to inspire meditation. The Archives have crafted luminous compositions that will find permanent rotation on your MP3 player, and your subconscious playlist.

Formed with the intention of exploring the origins of reggae, Archives are a first-class unit assembled by consummate keyboardist/director Daryl “D-Trane” Burke [Eek-A-Mouse, Gregory Isaacs]. Vocalist Ras Puma [Thievery Corporation], persuades with flinty wisdom, or employs spellbinding, propulsive, syncopated, melodic toasting to convey his message. Crooner Lenny Kurlou [S.T.O.R.M.], charms with a tone as sweet as Beres, enlightening as he mesmerizes. Drummer Leslie “Black Seed” James, Jr. [Culture, Eek-A-Mouse], lays pristine one-drop, steppers, and rockers riddims to anchor the Archives, and stimulates through tension and release.  Bassist Justin “Relentless” Parrott’s [Claudius Linton] subsonic bass lines surge from a deep pocket, radiating haunting sub-melodies.  Guitarist Mateo Monk lures listeners with driving skanks, enthralling staccato melodies, Marley-worthy solos, and proffers ethereal contributions on flute and melodica.

Guided by the steady hand producer Eric Hilton [Thievery Corporation], dynamic arrangements ebb and swell, live instruments resonate naturally, and production is organic and elegant with intermittent dub effects. The album benefits from guest appearances by Desi Hyson [Culture, The Original Wailers] on organ, full horn sections including Craig Considine [Chopteeth, Busta Rhymes], and tasteful percussionist Jeff Franca [Thievery Corporation]. Lyric themes are familiar rasta territory (condemning Babylon, greed, posers, colonial theft, and religious bigotry; and promoting rasta livity, herb, reggae music, worthy raisons d'ĂȘtre, and the spiritual nature of music), but approached in a compelling figurative manner. 

Songs by dominant styles include:
*Roots Rock Reggae (Ghetto Gone Uptown, It’s a Crime [Desi Hyson on voc.],
          Message for the Messenger)
*Rocksteady (Who’s Correct, Melodica Funk)
*Rockers (Nuff A Dem Claim, Sensibility, More to Life, Music is my Prayer
          [featuring Sleepy Wonder’s Uhuru-style Waterhouse wailing])
*Steppers (One More Time [by the Clash], Blasting Through the City [by Eric
          Hilton and  Rob Garza])
*Dancehall/Rockers (Boof Baff- feat. vocalist Ishelle Cole)
*Disco (Why Can’t We Live Together  [by Timmy Thomas])

I can’t stop singing & humming Archives songs.  Crucial album. Do yourself a favor and join the Archives massive!

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