Words by Saxon Baird— Jamaican music continues to spread far beyond the island’s shores and pop up in surprising places. Take the unlikely Tel Aviv-based duo of Kalbata & Mixmonster, who usually specialize in 2-step, techno and funk. In 2011 they set out to make a 100% analog dub album in the spirit of King Tubby with a 16-track tape machine, a vintage mixing desk and a handful of musicians. After cutting the tracks, the duo set out to Jamaica to find some of their favorite DJs to lay original vocals, all to analog tape in the spirit of recording techniques used in the ‘70s and early ‘80s on the island.
Fast-forward more than three years later and the accumulation of their work, titled Congo Beat the Drum, has arrived, and it is easily one of best things we’ve heard this year. (LargeUp the bossman Walshy Fire for tipping us to this one). Released this week via the UK’s Freestyle Records, the project comes equipped with bass loads of throwback dub, steamy roots reggae and fiery dancehall with famed Jamaican deejays like Echo Minott, Major Mackerel, Little John and, in one of his very last recordings, the late Prince Jazzbo.
Congo Beat the Drum is not just strictly re-hashing vintage Jamaican styles, though. The album is also peppered with modern elements of the duo’s electronic backgrounds, injecting a refreshing vibe to the reggae, dub and dancehall they’ve cut to tape. It’s a nod towards the golden-era of Jamaican music the duo utilized as a blueprint, while simultaneously maintaining a refreshing and forward-thinking sound.