Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stick Figure 'Burial Ground' Review (Stick Figure Music)

It's been precisely 2 years and 1 day since we reviewed Stick Figure's 'Smoke Stack', a solid roots- reggae album if there ever was one. Scott Woodruff, the man behind the band, manages to produce yet another first class reggae record with his latest work 'Burial Ground'.
Original, bass-heavy, one drop beats are consistent throughout the album, as are the subtle nuances...and sometimes not so subtle nuances....of dub. Stick Figure's digits remain firmly on the pulse of roots reggae/dub music.
Breathe get things started nicely. "Hey, so here we are...beneath the moon...the rising sun and stars. It's a brand new day. It's a brand new start....to greet the world...just me and my guitar."  Just breathe and take it in! Well done. Golden Hour is simply a lovely tune all the way around. Who doesn't enjoy a beautiful sunset at the beach with the soothing sound of waves in the background?! The riddim is sultry and mellow with a well-placed bridge. (A 'bridge' is always a welcome sight when it comes to reggae music!!) Evident also are the excellent harmonies, a common thread throughout the record.
Unlike previous efforts, Woodruff co-wrote 5 of the tunes with close friend T.J. O'Neill. This collaboration definitely paid dividends, including the aforementioned Golden Hour, the thumping return of Coming Home, and the title track Burial Ground. However, the most outstanding of this bardic union has to be Weight of Sound and Women of the Night. The latter features the legendary Half Pint on guest vocals. Sampling Bob Nesta's 'Stiff Necked Fools' is a brilliant move as Half Pint belts his verses like only he can. Most definitely one of the stand outs of the record! Weight of Sound is another stand out of the highest quality. This time T.J. gravitates to "D.J." O'Neill, as his gruff, original 'chat' brings this booming, 7 + minute classic to a to fitting conclusion.
Shelter has a vintage 70s feel that calls to mind the Studio One classic 'Armagideon Time' by Willie Williams. Hard Drugs is a timely tribute to the Cool Ruler while the forward guitar riff on Rocky Road is a clever touch on another stand-out tune, arguably the record's best. Woodruff's choppy delivery at stages is supremely smart and blends seamlessly with the air-tight harmonies! Heartland continues the fine musicianship that is Stick Figure. The man can craft a reggae beat with the best of them! Just Another Dream has a futuristic vibe with heavy roots/dub influences at it's core. Dreamland, dub at it's finest, closes a truly prolific album.
'Burial Ground' is a joy from track 1 to track 14. It's innovative, all the while remaining true to reggae of the purest form. The harmonies take this record above and beyond previous efforts. Play on Stick Figure....Play on!! Highly Recommended!

Burial Ground - Stick Figure 

Track Listing:
1. Breathe
2. Golden Hour
3. Burial Ground
4. Women of the Night featuring Half Pint
5. Hard Drugs
6. Weight of Sound featuring T.J. O'Neill
7. Shelter
8. Rocky Road
9. Heartland
10. Barrels
11. Same Old Story
12. Just Another Dream
13. Coming Home
14. Dreamland

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nico D 'Coming in from the Cold' Review (Soundquake)

 Sometimes the reggae industry, with it's tendency to saturate the market with re-runs in a shiny new package, becomes stagnant. There seems to be no originality, no innovation. Every once and awhile an artist comes along that captivates a listener and offers refreshment. Nico D, hailing from Oslo, Norway, is like a cool, crisp drink on a hot caribbean day. Born Nicolas Albert Holter, Nico D has had more of an international upbringing than most. He was born in Paris and moved frequently from country to country with his family before settling down in Oslo. While in High School he met Deejay Daniel Lion and Admiral P from Zambia and their joint passion for reggae music inspired them to start the sound system Jah Ark Manifest. With Lion behind the turntables and Admiral P and Nico on the mic, Jah Ark Manifest would soon stand out as Norway's #1 sound system. They have kept it going for over 10 years now and are still going strong. Nico released his debut single 'Ruff Times' featuring Jah Mason in 2009 and hit a landmark when it went to #1 on the Jamaican hitlist. The song was on the list for 25 weeks!
His debut album 'Coming in From the Cold' has now arrived. Surprising is an appropriate description because Nico D, even with the regional success of Ruff Times, has flown way under the radar. At least under this radar. From top to bottom, 'Coming in From the Cold' is, well...brilliant! Production is handled by a wide variety of top drawer craftsmen, including Calibud (Jamaica), Bost and Bim (France), and PowPow (Germany).
Setting the pace is Rise and Shine, a well-produced, solid tune with a positive message for the youths of today. Nico D's voice is as smooth as honey, whether he is singing or chatting. Soul Searching is innovative as well as appealing. The music has an r and b/hip-hop quality about it, with a unique, yet total reggae delivery. Say It Ain't So featuring Admiral P is a gem. The riddim and delivery is a throwback to early reggae/ska tunes. The back and forth of Nico's singing and Admiral P's deejaying is precise and bubbling.
Star is a boomshot...boom tune..whatever you'd like to call it! Nico's silky, simple delivery rides a simple one-drop riddim. Proof positive that less is indeed MORE! He croons: "I just want to tell you.....baby, you're a star. Remember that you are...always. I just want to show you.....how meaningful you are and without you in my life there's a scar...baby." Perfectly simple! Singjay veteran Lutan Fyah and Admiral P join Nico on No Badmind. The three compliment each other nicely, with Admiral P again adding a solid flow. One Day features Nico D riding the glassy wave of 2009's 'Surfer' riddim from the PowPow production team. It's an assurance, of sorts, as a spanish-style guitar riff reminiscent of 2008's 'Samba' riddim from DownTown Sound underpins the optimism in the lyrics. "Things will be better one day. Things will have to change and I won't feel this pain." With a smooth chorus and rapid-fire verses, Nico D shows dexterity in his delivery, an ability that resonates throughout the record. The aforementioned Ruff Times featuring Jah Mason adds a hard-hitting vibe musically and lyrically. The bass is heavy and suits Jah Mason's raspy, fire-bun- dem flow. Kingston Girl injects an effervescence to the record. The riddim is slow and steady, with a lovely sax riff throughout by none other than the legendary Dean 'Canon' Fraser. The harmonies are tight by Nico D and the ladies in support. Again, the flow and delivery is superb! Another gem.
Trouble in Paradise, featuring Admiral P and Iyah Kee, adds yet another dimension to the album with an upbeat, modern riddim with deliveries to match. One of These Days, featuring Vybrant, is an excellently crafted tune in both riddim and melody. Nico D and Vybrant's sparring is done with skill and confidence. True to the lyrics, they do "captivate the people dem with the chorus" with a positive outlook and message about the future. The laid back Grow closes the set nicely, as Nico D states his decision to "go with the flow" has resulted in his being able to grow. Another positive reminder to rise above the negativity and look for the good in yourself and others.
In short, 'Coming in From the Cold' is quality through and through! Nico D has managed to produce a classic debut album. Hopefully the reggae world will latch on because this record deserves to be mentioned with any and all of the best reggae albums of the last few years.12 tracks of pure niceness!
Highly Recommended!



Track Listing:
1. Rise and Shine
2. Say It Ain't So featuring Admiral P
3. Soul Searching
4. Star
5. No Badmind featuring Admiral P and Lutan Fyah
6. Inna Mi Draw featuring Turbulence
7. One Day
8. Ruff Times featuring Jah Mason
9. Kingston Girl featuring Dean Fraser
10. Trouble In Paradise featuring Admiral P and Iyah Kee
11. One of These Days featuring Vybrant
12. Grow