Listening to this record for the first time was one of those rare exhilarating moments where the music entering my ears was not what I was expecting but in a very good way indeed. Whilst firmly rooted in the UK dub and roots tradition Kulture Blak takes a refreshingly progressive approach to the production here that takes in influences from a much broader spectrum of electronic music and the result is a real stand out record that’s very deserving of its status as the inaugural release on his new Studio Starline imprint.
We’re treated to four different mixes of ‘On My Path’ all of which benefit from their own distinctive style. I’m going to run through things in reverse order starting with the very last track on the record which is a dub mix delivered by Ashanti Selah, son of legendary soundman Aba Shanti-I and one of the leading figures in the next generation of forward thinking dub producers. Now ‘balearic’ and ‘steppers’ aren’t usually two words that appear alongside each other very often but I would be so bold as to suggest that this track is maybe deserving of its own sub-genre that unites these two slightly unlikely musical partners. Just check that Spanish guitar intro or those surging euphoric synths all anchored by a monstrous growling bassline and you might start to see where I’m coming from on this one. Next up is Ashanti’s vocal remix which is more upfront than the dub containing more of Ras Asha’s uplifting vocals and a more dancefloor/dancehall focus that’s packed full of energy.
Then flip the record over to discover what was the real unexpected standout for me which is the ‘Vocal Accompaniment’ mix which is effectively an acapella version (with just some beautifully restrained minimal synth accompaniment) that really showcases Ras Asha's outstanding vocal delivery. Acapella reggae is a rare beast indeed which is maybe not surprisingly when you consider the central role bass and drums play in the genre. However when it’s done well it’s a real unexpected joy to listen to. Barrington Levy’s “Vibes Is Right’ and Sister Rasheda's ‘Hail H.I.M.’ are two exemplary examples that come to mind and I honestly think this mix of ‘On My Path’ sits alongside those as another knock out example of this fascinating variation on the reggae sound. Finally there’s the main mix which is the opening track on the record and expertly pulls together all the elements I’ve already written about using a pleasingly progressive production style that joins the dots between steppers, dubstep and even a dash of R&B.
Maximum respect to Kulture Black, Ras Asha and Ashanti Selah on this one for pushing the UK roots sound in exciting new directions, the likes of which I’ve not heard before but am definitely keen to hear a lot more of.
Copies available to buy in the Dubwise Vinyl shop.