Combinations of Islam and Rastafarianism are always interesting, since the two religions have almost nothing in common except a tendency toward two widely divergent brands of black nationalism. Such combinations are conceptually and theologically interesting (that is, not necessarily musically interesting). The full-length debut from Al-Haca Sound System takes its time getting musically interesting, but eventually does get there: it opens with the requisite waste-of-time nonmusical introductory segment, then eases slowly into a slightly jazzy, reggae-inflected toast by Ras MC T-Weed that bumps along pleasantly enough but never really gets traction. By the fourth track, though, things start grabbing your attention. "Heartbreaker" starts off innocently enough, but the rhythm doubles up about halfway through and Mr. V delivers a sort of laid-back speed-rap (if that's possible) that gives the song a whole new dimension; the dark and creepy "Break the Silence" features a spectacular cameo appearance by Sizzla, and Ras MC T-Weed teams up with a female singer named Oona for a nice combination track entitled "False." "Uckeritz Dub" offers an elegantly funky instrumental interlude. Then the album closes with the requisite waste-of-time outro. The overall vibe is dark and eerie, but not in the way of some bands whose message seems to be "We don't have anything to say, so we'll just put everything in a minor key and make it sound portentous." Al-Haca Sound System may not always have anything profound to offer, but there's more to explore here than meets the ear at first listen.
by Rick Anderson