It’s been a while since producer Rhys Adams dropped his first YesKing album (2008’s Rock This World) and since then he has taken the concept and run with it… literally, as a band that has turned into something of a fixture on the festival circuit (Glastonbury, Birmingham Jazz and WOMAD last summer) and toured supporting none other than original rude boys Madness. The Madness hook-up made perfect sense, as YesKing shares that band’s huge debt to Jamaican music, filtered through a twenty-first century, decidedly quirky sensibility…
Re-Record… Not Fade Away is the statement of a producer and a band that have found their sound, and that sound is outernational, futuristic and experimental, drawing from the innovations of downtempo/trip-hop to augment organic, rootsy music . Adams has now assembled a cast of collaborators that fit with his urge for sonic experimentation, his background in sound system culture, and his open-ness to the exciting influences all around him in contemporary multicultural London. Central to the new sound is guitarist Patrick Hatchett, whose CV includes nu-roots band The Soothsayers, and Jerry Dammers’ Afro-futurist Spatial AKA Orchestra. Hatchett brings a sensibility and expertise perfectly attuned to Adams’ background. Rapper Mystro, now something of a veteran in today’s rap game, provides grit and humour, and another veteran, dancehall singer Kenny Knotts, is just one of a brace of singers now attached to the band. Kodjovi Kush, from Togo via Ghana and Israel, is another. Annie Bea (part of The Rotten Hill gang with Hollie Cook a moley crew assembled by Mick Jones of Clash fame) and Rioghnach Connolly also step into the limelight. ..
Annie brings a lovers rock feel to Just Like Me, while One More Time, Kodjovi’s showpiece, can only be called Afrobeat, with its choppy rhythms and surging horns. Chicken Chops with its jazzy horns, is somehow both nu-soul and roots reggae. Horns also colour Hardground with its gentle rhythm, where the finished product somehow evokes the Bristol sound of Massive Attack or Portishead . Overproof is another catchy reggae track that has been picking up plays already. Run Boy Run has Mystro’s reality lyrics (about our surveillance culture) over an insistent riddim. Friends Like Mine and Secret King both combine rap with reggae and dancehall vibes, and Raise Up, with its conscious lyrics and deep roots feel , sounds like it could’ve belonged to the likes of Morgan Heritage.
The album title references an ad for Scotch video-tape that ran in the ‘80s, and hints at Adams’ own preference for recording live to a 1960s quarter-inch ferrograph tape machine. It evokes the process of trying to capture something substantial, rather than ephemeral, through the recording process: exactly what YesKing have done here.
Soon to drop from as a 7” single, The Devil Inside combines a sprightly reggae rhythm with the very Erykah Badu-esque vocals of Rioghnach Connolly, punctuated by classic reggae horns and framed by a very moody, cinematic sample. Straddling the worlds of reggae, nu-soul and electronica, it comes with a J-Star Dub and has an eerie vibe that make it stand out from the crowd.