New Testament

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Those expecting another excursion into tastefully mainstream modern roots reggae may be taken aback by this effort from U.K. producer Rootsman, which spends as much time exploring trip-hop and down-tempo electronica textures as traditional reggae rhythms and instrumentation. Even when working with classic Jamaican vocalists like Earl Sixteen (on the dark and exquisite "Shelter From the Storm") and U-Brown (on the darker and less-exquisite "Rocky Road"), the grooves Rootsman whips up are more hip-hop than one-drop. When speed-rap master Daddy Freddy steps in on the bracing "Live Forever," the lyrical results are surprisingly violent and nasty. Determine strikes a placating posture on "Let's Be Friends," but his message is undermined somewhat by a menacing minor-chord mood and quirky rhythm. That general mood is in control throughout the whole album, resulting in a listening experience that is unsettling but ultimately rewarding. Highly recommended to all fans of forward-looking reggae and hip-hop.

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