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Midnite - Ride Tru

Midnite - Ride Tru

Midnite - Ride Tru

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More accessible introspection from Vaughn Benjamin and Zion I Kings.


The works of St Croix sibling centred reggae group Midnite have many mansions and those mansions, many rooms. At the furthest wings, highest towers and deepest cellars are the albums that appeal to acclimatised acolytes and remain ponderous and impenetrable to outsiders. At the front door are increasing numbers of Trojan Horse projects where esoteric chanter Vaughn Benjamin leaves keyboardist brother Ron to spread his multiple topics within topics via more accessible producers.

A landmark was 2010's Kings Bell: atop the unusually up-tempo, hook friendly backings of Jamaica’s Andrew “Bassie” Campbell. It contained what is probably the first Midnite song to feature a catchy chorus (or perhaps a catchy refrain) and an accompanying music video - Mongst I & I.

Midnite - Ride TruA similar tunefulness could be heard on January’s Beauty for Ashes: released by St Croix’ I Grade Records and using the rootsy, soulful rhythms of US-meets-VI production trio Zion I Kings. Even though Midnite have been working with I Grade founder and ZIK member Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred for a decade - the Kings’ music seemed to have a relaxing effect on Benjamin’s lyrically dense vocals. Less than a year later, in keeping with Midnite’s furious productivity, comes the follow up, Ride Tru. Recorded in the same sessions, it continues to dispense Vaughn’s unique wisdom in easier to swallow melodic bites while sounding sonically more assured.

"Work out what you want to say - measure out in incremental" counsels Vaughn on opening track Calm The Day: and it could be a comment on his own measured delivery as much as the "cacophony of words" in the information overload age. To Ge Da is a piano led love ballad – whether this love is Eros or Agape is unclear – and Vaughn’s voice wavers with fragility as a “pure singer”.
Yet his abilities to connect disparate strands of human existence are undiminished: the Russian writer Pushkin communes with Selassie to the fierce drumming of Haile Selassie I the First Time.

Zion I Kings rhythms are rarely overused across projects (as their equivalents would be in Europe and Jamaica). They are remarkable for the clarity of Tippy’s mix and the contrast between the hardness of Lloyd Richards’ drums and the softness of the guitars, keyboards and brass. The woozy analogue warmth of an old Augustus Pablo production – Son of Jah Dub - for Worry Free demonstrates how well Vaughn sits on the sounds of the original masters (an avenue that should be pursued further). Another veteran guest is the late Style Scott - who beats out one of his final patterns on How I & I Carry On.

There is only one combination this time – I Beseech Jah with St Thomas’ Pressure (his third appearance on a Midnite longplayer). And just as Vaughn benefits from embracing melody Pressure sounds great when he dials his back a bit (a Pressure E or LP of this kind of hypnotic roots and dub is also overdue).

"Commercial industry build around singer and player" Vaughn observes on Conquering Lion – with its Afrobeat horns and eerie filtered vocal echo of the chorus/refrain line. And, while this record and its companion Beauty for Ashes are far too introspective to be “commercial” in the strictest sense, Midnite opening their doors a little wider results in some of their finest works.

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Posted by derek maclean on 08.01.2015

Comments actually desactivated due to too much spams

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