The Small Axe People
Small Axe People
February 16, 2008
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Lead Instruments : 3||Backing : 3/4||Production : 3/4||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 3|
After the reviews in 2001 of the
first Small Axe People album "Original
Version" and one of its successors, the 2003 release "Once Upon A
Teacher & Mr.T and mine of 2004 release "Portion Of
Version" and in 2005 of the first 'vocal' album, a joint effort with
legendary Studio One and Treasure Isle veteran DJ Dennis Alcapone "Just Version"
and one year later in June 2006 of "V Is For
Version", followed by last year's "The Wildest
Version", this "Generation Version" is, together with its dub companion
credited to Area X the latest release by The Small Axe People, the brainchild
of the very amicable long time reggae and dub (and yes, even dancehall)
aficionado Ray Hurford, editor, owner and writer
of 'Small Axe', the reggaezine that has become an institution over the
years, first on paper and later on the internet.|
As pointed out in the earlier mentioned reviews of "Original Version", "Once Upon A Version", "Portion Of Version" and "The Wildest Version", the whole concept, around which this now acclaimed series of version albums has been built, is based on the "Pop A Top" version Andy Capp a.k.a. Lynford Anderson cut of Derrick Morgan's recut of "Fat Man". And then not taken to just versioning a riddim, but to versioning the version again, and again again. With the minimal changes in instrumentation over the whole of those albums, all in all 12 tracks, the concept seems to owe as much to minimal music pioneers like Philip Glass et alibus, and while probably closer to reggae music is just as minimalistic and 'obsessed' by repetition, the techno-dub of Rhythm & Sound, the sound covered on this site in depth in the 'Jamaican hallucinations in stripped-down slowmotion'-article. It's clear where the inspiration is coming from, but it's always styled as a tribute, never as an epigone. Expect another Small Axe People release later this year: the title yet to be confirmed but with a more 'skanking' sound.
A stabbing keyboard riddim opens the "Generation Version" album under the keyboard melodies that dominate "Reason" and its walking bassline, in fact in my opinion dominating the track a bit too much, as it seems too much focus has been on the melody here and not enough on the riddim, generated with the Reason-program, hence the title of this opener. The basic riddim in the next version "Connection" is almost unchanged, but the riddim seems to be more upfront in the whole mix with large parts being dedicated to just the keyboard stabs and/or the bassline and the melody has shifted to synthi-horn-riff imitations that lend the whole track a lot more balance. It is almost unbelievable how much more intriguing both these tracks sound in their respective dub disguises on Area X' "Dub One" album, where despite adding more sounds, the whole soundscape concept is being disclosed further and deeper than in these instrumentals.
On "Tinhead" the melodic riffs are the same as on "Connection", but these have been simplified, losing some of the ability to keep the listener's attention the riffs had throughout "Connection", where on the contrary the piano chords in "Hiro" result in one of the best versions on this album, flowing steadily alongside the clicking riddim and the syncopated bassline with just a hint of melodic riffs much further down in the mix. "Waterhouse" might not be as freaky as "Waterhouse Walk" on the predecessing album "The Wildest Version", but has the weirdest broken chord soundeffect melody of all tunes here, offering one of the most intriguing versions, followed by "Cookie" where a simple but effective piano chord pattern lends a soulful effect to the version, that also benefits from several little breaks in the riddim and "Button", on which the same flaws as on "Reason" weaken the version, despite its marching drum riddim suddenly appearing in the mix, making it one of the tracks of which you can already hear now, that it will surely become a very attractive track in a dub incarnation, something proven by its dub version on "Dub One" by Area X.
On "Rockfort" the bass goes subsonic, haunting keyboard stabs over an in and out the mix (dis-)appearing set of piano stabs make a melody very reminiscent of the one in opener "Reason" appear completely in place here, for a very nice vibe that only gets better in "Deh" where the playful (early reggae) organ melody is counteracted by the light melodic piano chords for more enjoyable listening - as long as the piano is in the mix, which it isn't completely throughout the tune, but for the better part of it -. On "Safe" the version features both the light melodic chords of "Deh", though not on piano now, as well as jazzy melody riffs and a very nice bells-like percussion, before on "Disassociation" a melodica (a harmonica with a keyboard, made famous in reggae by Augustus Pablo with his Far East sound) melody with a beautiful distinct cymbal drum pattern gets us as close to 'standard instrumental reggae' as we will get on this set, before this album is closed with the freakier sounds of "Hail", an album that is on its own not one of the strongest releases by The Small Axe People, but nicer in combination with Area X' "Dub One". To hear it, visit The Small Axe People, to buy it, visit Small Axe People Paypal.