Bob Marley's song "Punky Reggae Party" recounted his 1977-78 exile in London when he and Lee "Scratch" Perry rubbed elbows with, to quote Marley's lyrics, "The Damned, The Jam, The Clash." Marley and Perry visited London punk clubs like The Roxy and, as Rastafarians, shared social outcast status with punks, which forged a bond within the counter-culture that lasts to this day.
Berlin's Jahcoozi also merge a punk ethos with dancehall and dub-drenched electronic music, albeit in a more globally mashed up manner. And similar to fellow global ragga-bass purveyors like Montreal's Poirier and Austria's Stereotyp, Jahcoozi flirts freely with multiple genres, kissing up to dubstep, glitch-hop or techno only to court a new style soon after. Those fleeting tendencies could have made Barefoot Wanderer a messy assemblage of styles, but primary members Robot Koch, Sasha Perera and Oren Gerlitz keep the album consistent and palatable while retaining an experimental edge. Koch's strikingly tight solo release Death Star Droid presaged the competent electronic powers he'd bring to Jahcoozi. But Perera's refined vocals and Gerlitz's instrumentation also add needed textures. The give-and-take between Jahcoozi's three members combine with the influences of additional guests, making each individual song a refreshing discovery.
Take sparse atonal track "Zoom in Fantasize," which pairs Perera's sedate lyrical delivery with loping beats that echo like Burial Mix's haunted riddims. It's non-traditional dub that manages to sound soothing nonetheless. Jagged bass track "Barricaded," featuring wonderfully bleak vocals by Barbara Panther, has the same cool demeanor as Headhunter or Ramadanman's hybrid dubstep. Although never intrusive, vocals anchor Barefoot Wanderer and add human warmth to the often dystopic beats. At times, Perera can sound overly detached, but ultimately she's cut from the same enigmatic cloth as Tricky collaborator Martine or Portishead's Beth Gibbons.
Jahcoozi's previous albums Pure Breed Mongrel and Blitz 'n' Ass mined aggressive arrangements and harsher rhythms. Barefoot Wanderer, on the other hand, bears more resemblance to Jamaican dub-influenced countrymen like Noiseshaper or Pole. Such is the case with the cool throbbing bass and steppy beats of "Msoto Millions," featuring Kenyan dancehall MCs Ukoo Flani. Rather than random ragga toasts over an ill-fitting backdrop, the track is a confident cross-border collaboration that syncs fluidly. Likewise, Anti-Pop Consortium member M. Sayyid brusque punk-rap on "Powerdown Blackout" adds an energetic infusion to all the dub wandering. Artful arrangements, unusual instruments (such as clay pot and violin) and consistently rich bass elements make this one of the year's most disturbingly beautiful creations. Edgy without being in your face, Barefoot Wanderer is music for the punky reggae afterparty.
- Published /
Mon / 19 Apr 2010
- Words /
Tomas A. Palermo