SoundBite: Rootz Underground and Solomonic Sound System
June 26, 2008
Giving “Movement” the mix-tape treatment certainly doesn’t hurt Rootz Underground’s music in terms of accessibility. Too bad the same’s not true for the format.
However, as the band and Solomonic Sound System have made a preview of Sunday night’s act at Whiskey Dick’s available for free online, it’s hard to complain.
The mix-tape version of the band’s full-length “Movement” is available for free atwww.rootzunderground.com, and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear: It isn’t or some DJ’s pastiche, it isn’t an interminable dub spacewalk, and it isn’t the relentlessly bass-heavy or preachy skull-thump that conscious reggae sometimes offers ” and yet there’s nothing about the “Movement” mix tape that suggests it’s reggae-lite.
Rather, it’s clean, driving music by a band that can shift smoothly among the (probably ultimately meaningless) distinctions among reggae subgenres: “Oh, it’s 72 percent roots with 18 percent of a dancehall influence and 10 percent dub … ” Dude: It’s reggae. And it’s pretty good.
Maybe it’s because I just saw Pato Banton (one of my all-time favorite live shows) for the fifth time just before listening to the “Movement” mix tape, but he’s a good touchstone for Rootz Underground’s modus operandi.
While Rootz Underground lacks the British legend’s star power or charisma, with the Solomonic Sound System behind the boards, the band seems equally comfortable emphasizing roots reggae, toasting and hip-hop influences. All Music Guide, on the other hand, drew a comparison between Rootz Underground and early Steel Pulse.
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Pointing out the flaws of a free download might constitute splitting hairs, but the format does create some problems. First, the “Movement” mix tape clocks in at one hour, 18 minutes and 26 seconds, which is almost long enough to get through what I guess would be the formal title: Solomonic Sound System presents a Selectors Choice featuring Rootz Underground ” “Movement.”
Another inconvenience ” especially for listeners checking out a new band ” is that combining the album into one track makes it difficult for them to revisit a song that grabs the ear, nor does it list the name of the standout track.
It kind of makes sense because a mix tape is almost as much the work of the DJ as the band undergoing the dub treatment. In fact I used to use the “join tracks” feature on my copy of iTunes to keep whole live albums or concept albums together. Yet, I usually leave those mega-tracks and mix tapes off my Shuffle because I really have to be in the mood to digest a 40-minute chunk of something like Spearhead’s “Live at the Baobab.”
Nevertheless, all the “Movement” mix tape costs is disc space and slightly less than an hour and a half of time, and that’s a small price to pay for an introduction to a band that listeners just might want to hear live this weekend.