The Wildest Version
The Small Axe People
The Small Axe People
August 16, 2007

Track list
  1. 1-38
  2. Beast
  3. Blink
  4. Cordon
  5. Pop O
  6. Pirate Code
  7. Disclosure
  8. Directory Call
  9. Quirky
  10. Resistance
  11. Unsafe
  12. Waterhouse Walk
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Lead Instruments : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 5 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 late in June 2006 of "V Is For Version", this "The Wildest Version" is 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" and "Portion Of 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 probably closer to reggae music but 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.

Opening this album is the very minimalistic, but by putting the riffs and keyboards motives over the stabbing keyboard riddim and heavy bassy accents accompanying very intriguing "1-38" including a nice (police?)radio 1-38-sample, followed by the much more gloomy sound of "Beast" with its bubbling subsonic bass-synth and spooky melodica (a harmonica with a keyboard, made famous in reggae by Augustus Pablo and his Far East sound) lines on top. "Blink" is the ultimate tribute to the dub-techno sound of Rhythm & Sound and minimal music, with just bass-low fast moving scales being the foundation for the melodic keyboards on top. "Cordon" is much more straightforward reggae dub or instrumental with the special tension brought up by the way the drum and percussion pattern is mixed in and out and in and out as just an accent giving a beat while the keyboards bubble on nicely in contrast.

"Pop O" brings back the melodica sound for the melody lines over a riddim that is so far deconstructed built with the sound of popping something thoroughly vacuum (I suppose hence the title of the tune), that it could as easily be used as a modern hardcore dancehall riddim as it is used now as a dubby backing for the melodica, very strange yet extremely impressive. And all written about "Pop O" can be applied without a change to "Pirate Code" as well, which is as much a hybrid of (minimal techno-)dub and an almost completely stripped down hardcore dancehall riddim for from The Small Axe people maybe unexpected, but truly as joyful listening as the previous works. Both versions of the 'Pirate Code'-riddim following then, "Disclosure" and "Directory Call" are more familiar sounds if you heard the earlier albums and especially the minimalistic tunes on latest release before this "V Is For Version".

"Quirky" is a quite upful instrumental because of the piano chords taking on the melody, making the 'Pirate Code'-riddim sounding completely different to fully claim the title of this album, as the version keep coming and all have their complete own identity even luring you into thinking you'd be listening to completely different riddims/tunes. But no, you're not, as "Resistance" on which The Small Axe People use computer-game like sound effects to go 'Scientist Meets The Space Invaders'-style proves. "Unsafe" is the one tune on this album where the mix doesn't work or the minimalistic bassdrum-pattern with the almost metronomic accent and keyboard layers on top just doesn't seem to have that slight movement at all, but in the ultra-weird sounding last tune of this album "Waterhouse Walk" all is made up for, as it the same minimalistic bassdrum pattern now completely kicking it as the the other soundeffects and real weird melody line completely grab and keep your full attention. Once more a very enjoyable version album, on which a new additional direction seems to have been integrated with the riddims reminiscing stripped down hardcore dancehall patterns, the must be heard (and praised) once more by all Wackies, Rhythm & Sound, Augustus Pable and Lee 'Scratch' Perry aficionados, but also by anyone having a faint interest in minimal music and real stripped down to the bone (reggae) music. To hear it or buy it, visit cdbaby.com, Super D, Sterns Music Online or payplay.fm.