Skank Corner
The Small Axe People
Small Axe People
August 2, 2011

Track list
  1. Mighty Hammer
  2. One Touch
  3. Crossroads
  4. Mutant X
  5. Far East
  6. Dark Alley
  7. Green Light
  8. Wingers
  9. Broadway
  10. Wild West
  11. Empathic
  12. Shield
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Lead Instruments : 4 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 3/4
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 Version" by 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 2007's "The Wildest Version", 2008 gave us the Area X album "Dub One" together with its instrumental companion "Generation Version", "Creation" and then 2009 "Skank It Up", before "Skank To Skank" was the latest release before this "Skank Corner" album 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", "The Wildest Version", "Dub One", "Generation Version", "Creation" and "Skank It Up, the whole concept, around which the 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 probably is closer to reggae music yet 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. Area X' sophomore album "The Wildest Dub" was scheduled for release later 2008 but in the end appeared in December 2009 as the dancehall/dub symbiosis "12 Levels Above Secret".

This album opens with "Mighty Hammer", a tune in which the bassline serves as the hammer mentioned in the title, pretty relaxing yet melodic dub, that is fully taken apart in the next ride of the riff "One Touch". It's fascinating to realize that this album strictly isn't a version album, but a versioned-riff album and I still don't know whether that is the 'less is more' or 'more is less' part of the concept. It's followed by the almost steppers-influenced "Crossroads" and the just a tad shifting "Mutant X" and the even heavier basslines of "Far East", in which the Far East is the actual Far East (instead of Augustus Pablo Nile as the further east) with its strange little melody that however still could have been done by Augustus Pablo on some children toy-instrument. In all tunes the minimalistic riddims form the perfect backdrop for rather scarce repetitive effects, keyboard stabs and the bass heavy keyboard riff dominating every single one of them, which together with the strong mix of the tracks on this album once more create just the amount of tension needed to both emphasize the minimalistic repeating groove and the subtle changes and movements. "Dark Alley" is the gloomier companion of "Far East" after which "Green Light" suddenly sounds upful and in "Wingers" the strange (low basslike) melodyline almost accomplishes to have you for just the one time forget about that pounding riff.

"Broadway" suddenly has a very wild approach of both riddim and riff, somehow more expected in what nevertheless seems to be its musical companion "Wild West" before "Whine In Time" mirrors the less upful side of "Skank It Up", sounding like its less happier little brother. Almost every time there is one track on the album where for my ears the keyboard melodies on top of the backing are just a bit too much out of sync with the overall feel the riddim itself gives and on this album it's "Empathic", but that is easily surpassed then by closing instrumental "Shield" taking it especially in the intro to far away. What a contrast that approach is to the earliest Small Axe People releases, it's almost like your drowned in the sudden melody-outbursts here. Would this album have consisted of its first 10 tracks, it would have been perfect, now it's almost perfect, thus more than just recommended for all dub, minimal music and techno-dub enthusiasts. To hear and buy it, visit The Small Axe People.