Reggae is something of a paradoxical genre. It is both characterised by almost unprecedented creativity and constrained by its signifiers. 'Experiments' by The Disciples is a compendium of unreleased music where these constraints are cast aside, with thrilling results. The sleeve notes state: "This is a collection of tracks recorded in the mid-90s... not reggae but what I call my 'experiments'... downtempo, electronic, ambient, ethnic, jazzy, funky, dubby... whatever came into my mind".
Often unreleased works remain unreleased with good reason. This is very, very far from the case with 'Experiments.' It is understandable that venerated reggae artists like The Disciples might leave this music on the shelf. Reggae fans can be weirdly conservative and maybe there just wasn't the appetite for it when it was made. Fast forward to 2022, and we're in a very different place. This is a deep ride through the outer limits of Russel Bell-Brown's imagination and should appeal to broad-minded music lovers everywhere. It touches on balearic, ambient, breakbeat and jazz tropes but is a thoroughly coherent and listenable listen.
The opener 'Some Thing' is both delicate and drenched in echo. Sounding like it uses the same Tom Scott and the LA Express drum sample as Massive Attack's 'Blue Lines,' but this becomes increasingly shrouded in layers of delay as the track meanders through its eleven-plus minute runtime. 'Dream Stream' is more sedate and meditative, even new age. 'Two Minds' trips out on loose, jazzy guitar, feeling like something one might come across on the Innovative Communication label.
'Vortexion' synth horns have a steppers vibe, but the backing track sounds like Bob Holyrod. A deep fourth-world mood prevails. 'Shadows' is ambient, wooshing and you can easily imagine getting a sundown spin at the Café del Mar in its heyday. 'Fire Night' rides on hand percussion, a funky loping groove and spatial synths. The LP closes out with 'Overflow,' which harks to the more tasteful end of the trip-hop / heads kind of sound.
'Experiments' is out soon on THANK YOU