PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Bedouin Soundclash: Sounding a Mosaic

Mark H. Harris

Do Bedouins listen to reggae? Maybe not, but Canadians apparently do.


Bedouin Soundclash

Sounding a Mosaic

Label: SideOne Dummy
US Release Date: 2005-05-10
UK Release Date: 2005-08-08
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

It's not unusual for a reggae act to emerge from Kingston. Except this time, it's Kingston University. Outside of Toronto. In Canada. Eh, mon?

Bedouin Soundclash's mere existence defies the rules, so it should come as no surprise that its music should break the mold as well. This genre-bending trio has been together (forming at the aforementioned university) for only a few years, but has caused enough of a stir that its second album (after 2002's Root Fire) was picked up and re-released by Los Angeles-based SideOne Dummy Records -- seemingly positioning the group to conquer America.

The U.S. may not be ready for a second wave of the Canadian reggae invasion (the first being, sigh, Snow), but by cleverly disguising itself as a rock band -- including its affiliation with punk-leaning SideOne Dummy and its participation in the 2005 Warped Tour -- Bedouin Soundclash just may sneak across the border and into cult status amongst the coolest and most grimy of the American populace.

Listening to Sounding a Mosaic, however, it's clear that the album's heart lies not in rock 'n' roll, but in reggae. While a slew of other über-hip rock and pop acts dabble in reggae (mostly a bastardized version of ska, which has long since died in its Jamaican homeland), Bedouin Soundclash sounds more like a reggae act dabbling in rock. Not only do they maintain a traditional reggae "stylee" for about 10 of the 15 tracks here, but they also imbue their music with a genuine soulful edge that's lacking in many modern ska hipsters.

From the opening track, the band's vibrant sound reveals a deep appreciation for reggae's roots. "When the Night Feels My Song" is a rollicking good time with a joyous melody that evokes early Jimmy Cliff as performed by Paul Simon. You simply don't hear this type of music much anymore: a frisky, strumming ska anthem that's reason alone to celebrate this album. Not stopping there, though, Bedouin Soundclash manages to follow it up with another ska-rific tune, "Shelter", which melds the Jamaican flavor with a bold '70s funk/rock attitude.

From there, the album diverges from ska into a variety of styles, none of which contain the raw power of the first two tracks, but which may draw in fans of other genres. Besides the Jamaican influence -- showcasing not only ska, but also roots reggae (including a cover of the Maytones' sufferers' classic "Money Worries", featuring the legendary group's front man Vern Buckley) and dancehall -- there's an Afro-pop vibe on "Gyasi Went Home" and "Nothing to Say", culled no doubt from bassist Eon Sinclair's Guyanese upbringing. Additionally, electronic elements -- jungle, trip-hop, whatever you wanna call it -- pepper "Rude Boy Don't Cry" and "Living in Jungles". "Murder on the Midnight Wire" and "Immigrant Workforce" meanwhile boast a British pop/rock feel that harkens back to the reggae-inspired works of the Police and the Clash.

The ease with which the band moves through these sounds is indicative not only of the members' varied upbringings, but also the production of Darryl Jenifer, who had years of experience melding reggae with rock as bassist for the groundbreaking Bad Brains. (Even the group's name -- derived from the title of a 1996 dub offering from Israeli DJ Badawi -- reflects its global influences. It's unclear if the band has any ties to Badawi or if they just really, really love the album.)

Of course, not every style on Sounding a Mosaic works. The jungle/dancehall cut "Living in Jungles" feels stilted; the edgy music is unsuited to lead singer Jay Malinowski's thin vocals. Plus, the two ending remixes throw in too many of the group's repertoire of sounds at the same time, crafting a hectic mess.

The most evocative cuts play it close to the reggae vest. Beyond the first two tracks, the rootsy acoustic guitar ballad "Jeb Rand", the dubby "Criminal", and lively pop reggae of "Music My Rock" propel this top-heavy album. The last five tunes, by comparison, falter.

With such a rainbow of musical styles, you wonder if Bedouin Soundclash will struggle to find a market in America (even if they stick to reggae, the success of the straightforward, "classic" reggae sound will always be limited in the U.S.). As it stands, Sounding a Mosaic will mostly please many listeners but may completely satisfy only a few.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.