Paul St. Hilaire

A Divine State of Mind

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Paul St. Hilaire hails from Dominica Island, but his approach to contemporary roots reggae has been profoundly shaped by his adopted home of Berlin, where dub and techno go hand in hand almost as a matter of course and where swinging acid jazz rhythms can appear in the mix without warning. St. Hilaire's sound is dreamy rather than trippy, and feathery rather than smooth -- unfailingly pleasant, but rarely obvious. Lyrically, he's as susceptible to cliché as every other rootsman: song titles include, inevitably, "Jah Love," "Humble," "Black Moses," and "Praise." But that's fine -- when the music is this warm and soothing, you don't necessarily want to be startled by an unexpected turn of phrase. So the faintly jazzy "Jah Won't Let Us Down," which follows the almost soporifically dubwise "Praise" and precedes the sumptuously beautiful "Clock a Tick," is distinguished not by its originality, but rather by its formal perfection. And when he pushes aside some of the ambient gauze to deliver more sturdily rootswise fare like "Jah Live Over the Hills," it sounds positively militant by comparison. Docked half a star for the children's chorus on "Fortunate." Recommended.

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