One genre that is woefully underrepresented on this blog is reggae and/or dub. Although our commitment to getting funkified is clear, we have yet to reveal any preference for a bit of the old boom cha rhythm and bass that reggae has to offer. Despite this, the absolute last thing we want you to think is that we don’t skank du temps en temps. With this in mind, I’d like to introduce you to a band that have been in the game a long old time- Fat Freddy’s Drop. From New Zealand, their funky beats combine reggae, soul, techno and jazz to make something as fresh as a freshly laid egg.
I’m going to focus on their 2005 album “Based On A True Story”, which is a varied and delectable taste of their overall sound. First, what must be noted is that these guys partake in a huge amount of improvisation. In fact, most of their music is based on live improvisation in the studio. This is what gives their music its rich and dynamic quality. It feels as if it’s truly from the soul, the heart, the mind, the body. Not only does it make you wanna groove, it also provides the perfect backing for a spot of jazzy reflection.
My introduction to the band came in the form of the soultastic “Hope”. With its hallelujah harmonies, finger clicks and soulful lyrics, this one has a gospel vibe to it. It is carried beautifully by Dallas Tamaira on vocals, who glides between quieter and more powerful moments. This song definitely falls into the reflective category, but still manages to build an expectant buzz that blossoms into a cracking brassy climax.
Another chilled out track is “Dark Days”, whose lyrics describe an emotional rehabilitative journey. It begins simply with Tamaira’s smooth voice over an acoustic guitar. It’s sound begins to parallel the lyrics, as the backing becomes more meaty and the vibe is much more hopeful. It then morphs into this dramatic monologue with heaps of jazzy undertones. You may have already heard my phrase, suspicious jazz. I’d like to take a moment to define it for you here. It’s the kind of jazz that an alley cat would walk down a moonlit street too. It tinkles with cheeky piano trills and tiptoes with cymbal brushes. It’s low key but no less suspenseful. And voila, Fat Freddy serves it up in this track like a dirty martini at a jazz bar in San Fransisco.
For something more upbeat and groovy, I’d suggest “Ray Ray”, which almost had me shaking my hips on the tube as I wrote this. It has a more prominent bass-dominated beat that kicks things off solo. When Fat Freddy finally drops, a badass cacauphony ensues. “Tell me what’s the world with no soul?” I’m thinking it’s pretty grey Dallas, I’m thinking I don’t want to live in such a world.
“Roady” is a sunny jaunt with loads of skanking potential. There are lots of creamy harmonies and that classic reggae rhythm backed up by a groovy brass section. The bridge on this track brings a bit of rap into the mix in the most welcome way. The following track “Wandering Eye” is similarly smile inducing. There’s a slightly faster reggae beat and more dramatic drum sections. The instrumental brings out the experimental side to the band with some psychedelic synth coming in over the characteristically funky brass riffs.
My favourite track on this album is “Cay’s Crays” which is a slightly darker reggae track. The bass riff is simple but effective and the brass fills are layered sexily. Tamaira’s vocals dazzle as usual and there’s even a bit of jazz flute to spice things up at points. If you’re after a more old school vibe with plenty of variety, look no further than this my friends.
So there you have it, our first foray into the colourful world of reggae. As the sun peeks out from the clouds, and the Pimms starts to make a cheeky appearance, whack on a bit of this to get the summer juices flowing. Lie back, relax, and never forget the sun cream people.
[Picture source: http://www.gobinderjhitta.co.uk/ via Clash]