March 8, 2017

Son Raw can swing.

Equiknoxx’s Bird Sound Power remains my favorite instrumental record of ’16, and for once it didn’t feel like I was shouting into the void, considering it was our highest ranking non-rap album and it narrowly missed #1 over at both Resident Advisor and FACT. That’s partially down to impeccable timing—the west’s collective guilt over tropical house means an authentic, experimental dancehall record attuned to music-nerd tastes invariably does well—but considering the amount of great albums that don’t get their due in favor of yet another techno record, I’m not complaining. An album this good is worth suffering the hundred “Where are U Now” clones on radio.

But Bird Sound Power remains a gateway drug—an instrumental intro to a group for whom vocal tracks remain the bread and butter. “Fly Away,” their new missive, out now on the always impeccable Swing Ting label, keeps things weird and underground—it’s dubby and sparse in a way a Popcaan version wouldn’t dare to be. Nevertheless, Alozade’s vocals add a crucial final ingredient, the extra dose of vibe that lifts things beyond “electronic music” into something more vital.

Truth be told, there are a ton of tracks on the group’s own label that are just as strong, but seeing them get a push beyond Jamaica feels like the start of something great—a new potential avenue for Jamaican musicians to get recognition beyond the island without trudging through existing formulas.

Speaking of self released tracks, while Gavsborg handled Fly Away, Time Cow quietly put out an EP of his, a triple platter of vocals, direct to iTunes. A bit further left than “Fly Away’s” immediacy, tracks like “Mas” experiment with latin vocals, while “One Gal’s” raw spit is the kind of shelling that lands squarely between ATL’s vocal experiments and pure battle rap…except it’s neither of those things. A bit wordy for the dance, but perfect for the headphones.