Bedouin Soundclash - MASS (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bedouin Soundclash

MASS (2019)


Canada's Bedouin Soundclash have been one of my favourite bands since high school for the way they melded so many styles together, especially Caribbean influences. Reggae, dub, ska, alternative and indie-pop formed the spine of a band whose discography I can best sum up as fucking epic. It's a wild, versatile musical ride and thankfully, MASS has been well worth the wait. It's sonically very different but in terms of how Bedouin uses this new soundscape, I love how vocalist and guitarist Jay Malinowski continues to explore musical avenues that could best be considered as unconventional for the trio.

Eon Sinclair's basslines usually formed the musical foundation for this band, carving out rhythm, melody and swooning backdrops for Malinowski to riff off of, and surprisingly, the new record uses a lot more of a choir-essence. In fact, it's scrubbed of most of its rock and roll influences, going for something calmer, poppier and more soulful. The Afro-gospel jams like "Holy" and "St. Jude of the Floors" are solid examples of this, moving past the days of "Mountain Top" and "Gyasi Went Home" -- especially the breakneck drums. It's about measured and tempered sounds with "Drive" also being a tamer homage to the '80s, something Malinowski has always said he'd love to dive into more.

And make no mistake, as good as he sounds, it's all about the choruses and eclectic support brought forward on songs like "When We're Gone" which feels like a Fatboy Slim joint. In other words, the record's all over the place but in a good way. I love how they incorporated more big band swing to New Orleans jazz, pop, electronica, and so much more, even recording in New Orleans and actually touching down on the ground and roots of their musical influences. From distorted marimbas to poppy keys (a la "Born Into Bad Times"), the album is jammed with infectious melodies and summery feel-good vibes with diverse instruments really plastering the album with a worldly and cultural feel.

The standouts I'd say are the catchy "Clockwork" and "Salt Water" -- the latter of which has a Trini-soca vibe but with blaring horns, giving it that emo-trumpet feel you know I'd consider classic. Seriously, this band has a tendency to think outside the box and I adore this creative rebirth here, clearly influenced by the cities and musicians that surrounded them. Co-produced by legendary Philadelphia house DJ King Britt, along with musical direction from Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall, this record doesn't follow any formula, not even with the acoustic intonations of songs like "All Tomorrows" and "Inversion Weather" where it seems Malinowski is going to venture into all-too familiar solo territory only to swing left and press into a bit more kooky sound work. And honestly, there are surprises at every corner, even on the folk tracks you'd consider to be typical Bedouin. By the time "Just Like You" wraps, its soothing essence reminds you of Malinowski's work with Armistice and continues to prove Bedouin Soundclash has a magic that's inescapable and pretty much tough to copy.