Music Review: Dreadsquad – The Riddim Machine (2012, Superfly Studio)

Dancehall on the rise; as upgraded with ska riddims, digital reggae inna 8-bit vintage style and bass heaviness. Catchy, uplifting, dance-prone destined to mash up the dancefloor.

Genre: Digital Dancehall / Ska / 8-bit reggae

Country: Poland

Artists Website: Soundcloud

Label: Superfly Studio

‘The Riddim Machine’ is a title that perfectly describes Dreadsquad, at least in their brand new work. The album brings ska, reggae and 8-bit digital dancehall riddims together in an album that is meticulously crafted with a very strong focus: to make people move on the danceflooor and enjoy. That to say that this album is a party bomb without losing an inch of consciousness, creativity and reggae edge.

This 16-track, 56-minute set captures all the energy and versatility of Dreadsquad’s sound. They are actually known for their fresh mix of Jamaican styles, but they never had the chance to bring it all in a full-length, until now. So, let’s take the chance and celebrate the diversity of their music as also reinforced by the outstanding performances of all those gifted singers. We can find more than a handful of legendary and newer voices from Jamaica (U Brown, Skara Mucci, Perfect Giddimani, Ward 21), UK (Kenny Knots, Lady Chann, El Fata, Tenor Fly and Blackout Ja) , Germany (Dr, Ring Ding) and Poland (Kasia Malenda) riding these propulsive, contagious riddims packed in a single release.

There are hardly any weak points to mention and too many good ones. ‘Old’s cool’ is a Skatalite-sized ska menace destined to make people mercilessly bounce. It features rough ragga style vocals and this ska-ragga combination comes again with Blackout Ja in ‘Any means necessary’ and bears some similarities with European-based modern intepretations of ska(-punk) music. U Brown is a legendary toaster, 40 years in the scene, and here he gives a great performance that uplifts this soulful track which sounds like fresh from Studio One in the year 2012 – melodic chanting on a dub substrate in the typical relaxing, stretched-out style. ‘Soulfly’ features the extraordinary voice of Polish newbie Kasia Malenda, which sounds already mature and ‘well-roasted’. She has a particularly expressive style, much afrocentric and neo-soul akin to Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill – an excellent performance in a song already memorable and solid.

Second lady in a row but a real mood shift; Lady Chann unleashes a masterful dancehall rhyming on an electronic beat with playful melodies somewhere between ska and dancehall. ‘Sleng-teng riddim’, the first fully computerized and endlessly massive reggae riddim comes in a retro, joyful version here with Perfect Giddimani’s loud ragga roughness. What we could observe here and there before, namely the 8-bit 1980s vintage effects, come in ‘Living for Tomorrow’ in full force. The bass is pronounced and driving and brings Jahtari and Mungo’s Hi Fi productions strongly in mind. 8-bit digital beats style is really peaking the last years – primarily in dancehall productions (and consequently in dub and reggae e.g. Dub Unit and the aforementioned) but also in IDM (Naive Machine, Pixelord etc.).’ Sweet & nice’ with El Fata features an explosive riddim in the Mungo’s tradition with a super heavy bass. Dubstep heaviness, dancehall and 8-bit effects come together in the remix of ‘International Currency’ (originally from Kush Arora with Jahdan Blackamoore).

Uplifting, positive vibes come into the fore with the ‘Me Want’ with the bam-bam groove and a poppy sensibility. Next comes ‘Jump and skip’ is so pervasive that is really impossible to stand still or remain serious – at least I practice new ways of typing with all the rest of my body moving around – good times. In earlier times, this song could be mashing the charts in Jamaica or US but anyway Freegan Kolektiva is not concerned much with what the industry is pushing. Contemporary oldschool dancehall comes in ‘Sweet Thing’, particularly cheerful and jumpy. One drop reggae, rasta anthemic comes with ‘When Jah Call, with mellow sweet vocals from Mr. Diamond and Fabi Geez.

For the end Dreadsquad surprise again with a cover of the Polish classic ‘Suicide Tango’ (1935’s ‘To ostatnia niedziela’ composed by Jerzy Peterburski, sung here by Mieczysław Fogg) which reminded me naturally of Gotan Project. It might appeal to all those electronic Balkan gypsy party-goers but I think Radikal Guru’s dubstep version (‘Caravan’) which comes right after is actually more interesting and more energetic. It is actually nice to hear a collaboration of Poland’s reggae finest.

Dancehall uprising again! This time fortified with heavier basslines (and dubstep riddims), 8-bit 1980s vintage sounds and aesthetics and most of all a healthy dose of consciousness. Producers look for that extra touch to differentiate themselves as well as they invest in danceble groovy heaviness updated to the contemporary requiremnets of bass music, which has a considerable following. While the similarities are many with Scottish heavyweights Mungo’s Hi Fi, where Mungo delved into a very solid, cohesive whole of ultra-heavy reggae of vintage flavour in their last album ‘Forward Ever’, Dreadsquad are slightly ‘softer’ (still heavier than most) but bring more diversity. While Mungo’s sourced their direct throwback references in early-dancehall, Dreadsquad expand it to include ‘the golden hits’ era when dancehall became also a US staple (with Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus & Pliers). While Jahtari is focused on developing and perfecting the 8-bit digital era sound, Dreadsquad are focused on bringing this sound to everybody with catchy compositions and an array of styles all well-played that can touch both dreadheads and wider audiences.

Dreadsquad prove to be a wildcard in the dancehall revival (although they are not concentrated only there), a sound that has become remarkably heavier, injected with dubstep subbass heaviness and digital 8-bit 1980s romanticism that works ‘mostly’ for righteousness and the revolutionary spirit of our times, removed from its general slackness, notoriety and mainstream-commercial ‘success’.

MMF & Funksion (the DJs/producers behind Dreadsquad) are spreading Jamaican vibes in Poland (they come from Lodz) and worldwide since 2001. Apart from experience they seem to have the Midas touch since almost every song on ‘The Riddim Machine’ sounds dancefloor-ready and hit-sensible. The album is released on their own label ‘Superfly Studio’ and it is also supported by a brand new video of ‘Champions Anthem’. I cannot predict if the album is going to be a breakthrough, but it has all the potential to make it through in any of the European, reggae-thirsty countries.

Dreadsquad & Perfect Giddimani – Champions anthem:

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Explore related artists via Freegan Kolektiva:

Mungo’s Hi Fi – Forward Ever

Radikal Guru – The Rootsteppa 

Jahtari + Soom T: The power of digital beats and deejay skills

Ruff & Tuff music for uprising people

Pixelord – Keramika EP (2012, Hit And Hope)

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One thought on “Music Review: Dreadsquad – The Riddim Machine (2012, Superfly Studio)

  1. Pingback: Dreadsquad – new album, music videos & Canadian tour dates | The Daily Dread

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