Sunday, February 5, 2012

Albums of 2011 # 1: Radikal Guru - The Rootstepa

Now here’s a crazy thing – a relatively unknown white DJ from Poland (!) produces what I consider to be not only the best dub album of the year, but my favourite any-genre album of 2011.

Okay, perhaps I should qualify that – the best or favourite album of the year as heard *in my house* ...  the only prerequisite for inclusion on my list of 2011’s ten best albums being that I had to have purchased or acquired a copy – in any format – during the year. Oh, and preferably the albums included all had a 2011 release date (all but one on the list did).

And it should be pointed out that I may regard The Rootstepa in a different light in six months time – right now it is the hottest ticket on my pod, a late arrival in 2011, so naturally I’m smitten with it presently.

I didn’t discover too much in the way of exciting new dub or roots reggae beyond this release in 2011. I could have compiled a massive playlist exclusively made up of single tracks of that nature but so far as a full album by a single artist? ... well, I can’t think of any other dub album – outside of compilation albums or retrospectives – that came close to Radikal Guru’s The Rootstepa in terms of quality and consistency in 2011.

When The Rootstepa arrived in my Downloads folder it was like someone had switched on a bright light. It was new, exciting, fresh ... a genuine discovery. I’d only heard a couple of Radikal Guru tracks prior, and I downloaded the album on the strength of those. It’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed upon first listen, and although it has been on regular repeat ever since, it continues to grow with each and every listen; I find something new and interesting in its rich tapestry of sound every time. And seldom can an album title have so accurately portrayed the actual content. This is roots, with morsels of heavy dubstep thrown in. Not that mindfck wobbly/womp womp dubstep you’ll hear in clubs, but pure skanky spaced out floaty shit.

Radikal Guru (aka Mateusz Miller) is an exceptional talent, and on The Rootstepa he takes us on a spiritually uplifting journey to somewhere approximating deepest darkest Jamaica with the help of vocalists Brother Culture, Cian Finn, and someone called Monkey Jhayam. But mostly the album consists of instrumental tracks and samples, sub-rattling bass, all manner of percussion, and a wide range of production FX. There’s more melodica than you can shake a funny cigarette at, and while Miller draws mainly from old school roots reggae to place his stake firmly in the ground, he clearly isn’t averse to using state-of-the-art production techniques to ensure he gets the best from those riddims.

Tracks such as ‘King Kong’, ‘Kali’, and the title track itself contain enough top notch dubstep – of the subtle and more mellow variety – to suggest that this is a path Miller may ultimately end up exploring more, but for now, on The Rootstepa at least, he gets the blend of heavy bass and spiritual roots just right. Something close to perfect, in fact ... praise the almighty! ... or as Mateusz Miller himself might put it:

chwalić wszechmocny Jah!

Download: ‘Dread Commandments’, ‘King Kong’, ‘Wisdom Dub’, ‘Babylon Sky’, and the closer, ‘Conquering Dub’.

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