Ex-Centric Sound System

Afro Riddim Sessions, Vol. 1

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Not since Bassnectar has a band combined so many different musical sources into such a compellingly coherent dance music whole. Ex-Centric Sound System bassist and bandleader Yossi Fine starts out with a fusion of Jamaican and African sounds, but brings in a variety of other elements, including musical influences from Latin America, New Orleans, London and New York. Like the group's 2004 release Electric Voodooland, Afro Riddim Sessions, Vol. 1 takes those disparate elements and combines them into something simultaneously fresh and familiar. Guest vocalists on this album include such modern roots legends as Prezident Brown and Anthony B as well as an assortment of lesser-known names, including Jah Maison, Doniki, and Kulcha Knox. Not everything works out perfectly: "1-2 Nayabingy Order" starts out brilliantly, but when the bass kicks in you realize that the singer and the rhythm are in different keys; both the vocal and the rhythm are excellent, but sadly, they don't actually fit together at all. Much better are "Hardcore Reggae Ambassador," which features exquisite toasting by Lisa Denja, the old-school jungle groove of "Put on the Dancing Shoe" (featuring Kulcha Knox) and the album's spectacular centerpiece, "Babylon by Bus," on which Prezident Brown earns his title. It's followed by a very fine dub version. Overall, this album can be confidently recommended to any fan of modern, adventurous reggae.

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