Ooklah the Moc

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Most Hawaiian reggae bands (of which there are a surprisingly large number) try to play up the tropical connection between Jamaica and Hawaii, blending Hawaiian words and Jamaican patois into a weird sort of lyrical creole while mixing surfing themes awkwardly with Rastafarian phraseology. Ooklah the Moc, to their credit, are having none of that. Their sound is strictly roots, their lyrics are straight-up Rastafarian, and their instrumental arrangements are some of the most richly and beautifully complex that you'll ever hear in this genre. Yes, the lead track is called "Hawaiian Man," but you'd never guess it has anything to do with Hawaii -- in fact, it sounds like a Steel Pulse outtake (throughout the album, Steel Pulse is the group's strongest and most obvious influence). Singer Ras Bird Pierre has one of the finest voices in reggae music, and the horn section is one of the tightest. The songs themselves are both melodically gorgeous and, in several cases, surprisingly intricate; listen closely to the outro on "Hot Hawaiian Nights" and you'll notice its time signature alternating between six-four and five/four. The fact that they even think to pull a stunt like that is testimony to their chops and creativity, but the fact that you'll have to listen closely to catch it is an even more important testimony to their taste and subtlety. Very highly recommended overall.

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