Music Review: The Archives – Archives

The Archives Cover

Genre: Roots Reggae / Rock Steady / Dub

Region: Wahington DC, USA

Artists’ Website: The Archives official website

Label: ESL Music

Release Date: July 10, 2012

I would like to draw your attention and introduce you to the Archives, because they just released one of the most wholesome, captivating reggae albums of the last years. No song is below the top, no song is excessive – this is roots reggae just as it should be: fully organic, memorable with all the catchy hooks and a top-notch vintage production courtesy of Eric Hilton (Thievery Corporation).

The Archives Band PhotoThe formation of the Archives was actually his idea, when he proposed to the keyboard player Darryl “D-Trane” Burk to start a cover band in order to present pre-reggae era rarities to new audiences. With two years running weekly sessions at a club in Washington DC, the band had plenty of stage time to work out its style.

As the band started writing their own material the line-up solidified with Mateo Monk on guitar, Leslie “Black Seed” James Jr. on drums and Justin “Relentless” Parrott on bass. All members of the band had previous experiences with acts like Culture, Eek-A-Mouse and the Abyssinians.

This album is complete: inspired songwriting, solid musicianship, amazing vocal deliveries, stellar production – all 13 tracks are bursting from quality. The songs are swaying between the better parts of reggae history: from rock steady to some Black Uhuru-scented concrete roots and from dub to early dancehall. The production has that ‘foundation rockers’ vibe, similar in approach to the last album of Alpheus (‘From Creation’) or The Slackers  recent output (e.g. ‘The Radio‘).

Washington-based reggae chanter Ras Puma, best known from his collaboration with Thievery Corporation, is fulfilling most of the vocal duties here (7 songs). His versatile style which combines singing, chanting and sing-jaying can be heard in anthems like the instant classic ‘Ghetto Gone Uptown’ (which you can download for free here), the melodious hit ‘More To Life’, the remake of ‘Blasting Through The City’ (from Thievery’s ‘Radio Retaliation) or in the contagious vocal lines of ‘Sensibility’.

Jamaican singer/songwriter Lenny Kurlou (Stryker’s Posse, S.T.O.R.M.) gives an outstanding performance on the heartfelt, dubby ‘One More Time’ (The Clash cover), which reminds the late Twilight Dub Circus sound (e.g. Vocal Anthology’). Ichelle Cole (one half of Stryker’s Posse sistrens) dee-jays on the strictly-danceable ‘Boof Baff’ with that unmistakable early dancehall vibe while Dominican Desi Hyson (The Original Wailers) takes over on the soulful and life-affirmative ‘Crime’. Deejay phenomenon Sleepy Wonder reveals a different side of his vocal capabilities in ‘Music Is My Prayer’, which sounds like a more high-pitched version of mighty Michael Rose.

The debut album of the Archives is spotless from start to finish. I’ve been spinning the album again and again and I can hardly remember any other contemporary reggae album that does not contain a single average song. The band showcases sensibility for social issues through their lyrics and awareness of their position in the current reggae scene. As the band’s guitarist Mateo Monk accurately stressed: “We are not a retro band. We’re a 21st century band with really deep roots and we want to contribute to reggae’s evolution. Same tree, new leaves.”

The Archives – One More Time (Live in Washington DC):

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More reggae vibes at Freegan Kolektiva:

  1. The Black Seeds – Dust And Dirt (2012, Easy Stars Records)
  2. Ziggi Recado – Liberation EP (2012, self-released)
  3. Joggo – Modern Rockers Vol. 1 
  4. The Uprising Roots – Skyfiya 
  5. Dreadsquad – The Riddim Machine (2012, Superfly Studio)

More exciting music from Washington DC:

  1. Elikeh – Between 2 Worlds
  2. The Funk Ark – High Noon (2012, ESL Music)
  3. Congo Sanchez – Vol. 1 (2012, ESL Music)
  4. Thievery Corporation – State of the Union
  5. Thievery Corporation – New single and video dedicated to Occupy movement
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