Bedouin Soundclash - Sounding A Mosaic (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bedouin Soundclash

Sounding A Mosaic (2004)

Stomp (Union Label Group)

I had been mostly unaware of this band until last summer. I knew them in name only, being "that dub band on Stomp's roster" and not much else. The little recorded material I sampled I had long ago written off as being too unfocused and overlong. However an absolutely surreal and mind blowing set opening for The Slackers turned me around. Their new material was captivating, soulful, timeless sounding stuff. If they could pull off on record what they had demonstrated live they would have truly captured something special.

Enter Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jennifer. As producer Jennifer provided the focus and the grounding influence needed. To his credit Sounding A Mosaic sounds amazing, it has a haunting sense of space that perfectly suits acoustic driven songs like "When The Night Feels My Song" or "Jeb Rand" and gives the band's denser arrangements room to explore. I can't say whether it was his doing or not, but to the album's ultimate benefit the band's more experimental genre fusions are reigned in and never loose their direction.

Working with Jennifer is just another smart association this band's made in recent years. They've shared the stage with not only the aforementioned Slackers but also ska founders The Skatalites and The Maytones' Vernon Buckley. Buckley even makes an appearance on the record for a reworking of his band's "Money Worries." The lessons learned on these "lucky opening gigs" were certainly not lost on the band. Sounding A Mosaic moves from the bouncing ska of "Shelter" to shades of drum & bass in "Rude Boy Don't Cry." "Immigrant Workforce" brings in a touch of early new wave guitar while the dancehall "Living In Jungles" sneaks in more than a few lyrical tributes to Buju Banton. Jay Malinowski's vocals sound remarkably authentic as he channels Dekker and Marley with ease, if one didn't know the band's history this could easily pass for something out of Kingston Jamaica rather than Kingston Ontario. I feel reviewers might namedrop "Walking On The Moon" style Police when describing this, but that's really a superficial observation and slights the band of the commitment they're showing to the true roots of this genre.

I've got a really good feeling about this album. It hits the sweet spot between the roots ska / reggae and progressive, original song writing; The two remixes of "Money Worries" and "Rude Boy Don't Cry" that cap the album drive this point home. This is one of those records that, given the right time and place, could make a huge impact. How it will fare in today's climate remains to be seen, but I highly recommend you check it out.