Lee "Scratch" Perry

Black Ark Experryments

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Another era in Lee "Scratch" Perry's career began with the producer's relocation to Zurich at the end of the '80s. At this stage, it seems that the Upsetter had begun to recognize his status as absentminded cult-figure, even playing up to the image. Indeed, collaborator Neil Fraser's Mad Professor moniker seems far more applicable to Perry than to the London dub producer. The two hooked up in the mid-'90s, recording a series of albums for Fraser's Ariwa imprint, including this 1995 release. Black Ark Experryments' lead track, "Thank You" is a pleasant surprise. Perry is relaxed, in good humor and sending off positive vibrations, recalling his own late-'70s vocals on "Curly Locks" and "Dreadlocks in Moonlight." The Upsetter's style over the remaining 55 minutes is then established by the lengthy excursion "Super Ape in a Good Shape." The track begins with Perry calling the shots; directing the music as the rhythm slowly builds. Scratch sticks to a chanting style, delivering lyrics like a DJ who knows no topical boundaries. Many a strange connection is made in the producer's free associations as subjects are taken up, chanted, twisted in rhyme and dropped. The results, while interesting, tire somewhat after 11 minutes. Thankfully, Perry seems more engaged over the album's hour-long duration than he had in some time. That fact and the quality of the rhythms Mad Professor coaxes from his artillery of drum machines are the saving graces of Black Ark Experryments. Though Perry's zany humor may not be what he is best at, it was the style he seemed to favor later in his career. At times forced and indulgent, the collection is also endearing and a contender for Perry's finest album of all new material during the '90s.

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