MIX RETROSPECTIVE – 2015 FACTMAG “CAPTAIN OF NONE” INFLUENCES MIX
January 5, 2021 § Leave a comment
I waxed lyrical when FACT Magazine asked me to write a text to accompany this mix in 2015 …
“This mix includes music which has specifically influenced me in the making of my fifth album Captain of None, mostly from the point of view of song-writing, production, or just a general “feel” in the music, for lack of a better word.
No other song encapsulates how these various aspects of music-making are intertwined in Jamaican music better than Burning Spear’s “Door Peeper”: released in 1969, the combination of Burning Spear’s voice, percussion, compressed horn line, minimal instrumentation and lyrics, and dry but deep production make this song one of the most earth-shaking I’ve ever heard.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Scientist’s “Dangerous Match 1” from 1982 sounds like underwater swimming in weird waters and shows how abstract and stylized Jamaican music can be.
Tapper Zukie’s “Simpleton Badness” is a perfect example of idiosyncratic toasting, crazy tape manipulation and radical production from 1973.
The Lee Perry-produced “Long Time Ago” by Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus marvellously mixes traditional Nyabinghi drumming and intense chanting with Perry’s extremely dense production style , and I just love how the volume and intensity increase unexpectedly at the end of the song with the arrival of a killer bassline.
Noel Ellis, son of Alton, has one of my favourite voices, but I chose this track especially for the mind-blowing guitar parts featured in the dub version – guitar perfection in my opinion!
When I first heard Augustus Pablo’s “Pablo in Fine Style”, the intricacy and delicateness of the melodica reminded me of baroque music and Mozart, which are not obvious reference points when you’re listening to Jamaican music!
Another Lee Perry production, the unusual sounding “Paul Bogle” by King Burnett (NB: attribution to this singer has been debated, but that’s how it’s credited on the 7” label): slow and melancholy with a meandering melody, it’s one more example of how Jamaican music can sound so far from the clichés it’s unfortunately too often associated with.
Niney’s “Weeping Lotion” is the opposite, a fast and frantic high-energy feast which is just amazingly mixed!
With “Collins Sweat” by Collins Music Wheelers and Wackies Rhythm Force’s “Black Africa”, the amazing flute bended in ways reminiscent of early BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the lilting melodica against the half-tribal half-machine-like backdrop show once again the Jamaican knack for abstraction rooted in physicality which I’ve found so inspiring.
Prince Far I’s voice and vocal treatment on “Plant Up”, Tapper Zukie’s razor-sharp “Man Ah Warrior” and Little Madness’s stirring a cappella on “Mother Country Version” are more examples of the power of the combination of voice and minimal accompaniment in Jamaican music.
The Gladiators’s classic “Bongo Red” has guitar that I’m jealous of and excellent lyrics to boot.
Black Kush (also known as Black Kish)’s “Natural Rock” is a rare example of acoustic guitar in Jamican music, and its minimal approach to percussion also struck a chord with me.
Last but not least, I just had to close with a track that I heard in my childhood: “Return of the Super Ape” is one of the many Lee Perry/Upsetters songs contained on a tape that my parents bought in the late 70s and which we played in the car on long trips. To this day I just love this track and still find it totally unique and one of a kind: you can never be sure of what it is that you’re hearing on this song: monkeys, spanners falling on the floor in a metal house, a jazz band lost in Jamaica, soap bubbles transformed into notes… before one of the best breaks and song finales of all time… “
Burning Spear – Door Peeper
Scientist – Dangerous Match 1
Tapper Zukie – Simpleton Badness
Ras Michael – Long Time Ago
Noel Ellis – Reach My Destiny
Augustus Pablo – Pablo In Fine Style
King Burnett – Paul Bogle
Niney And Observer All Stars – Weeping Lotion
Collins Music Wheelers – Collins Sweat
Wackies Rhythm Force – Black Africa
Prince Far I – Plant Up
Tapper Zukie – Man Ah Warrior
Little Madness – Mother Country Version
The Gladiators – Bongo Red
Black Kush – Natural Rock
The Upsetters – Return Of The Super Ape