Lee "Scratch" Perry / Subatomic Sound System

Super Ape Returns to Conquer

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Some four decades after the original release of the classic Super Ape, Lee "Scratch" Perry re-recorded the album with Brooklyn's Subatomic Sound System, his regular backing band since the late 2000s. Of course, it's not simply a by-the-numbers remake, because that wouldn't be possible, nor would it be necessary. Improvisation has always been a big part of what Scratch does, and on this effort, he's still playing strange cosmic word association games over the booming rhythms. Musically, there's far more thundering, heavy bass here than on the original -- this was clearly created for 21st century sound systems. Subatomic co-founder Emch controls the dub effects, and the group's other members contribute horns and percussion. Screechy Dan adds vocals on a few tracks, including a remake of the Max Romeo classic "Chase the Devil" (not on Super Ape, but co-written by Perry), which also features Jahdan Blakkamoore. Additionally, the late Ari Up (of the Slits) guests on "Underground Roots," and it's a joy to hear her again. Some of the album was audibly recorded at live concerts (the Super Ape 40th anniversary shows, in fact), but even when it sounds studio-shiny, it still has a spontaneous flow to it. Like Perry's collaborations with the Orb (among many other artists), it makes sense that this is billed as a collaboration, because while it's clearly his voice, personality, and music, it seems like someone else is directing things. Then again, considering that he was 81 years old at the time of the album's release, it's a wonder that he continued to sound so energetic and spirited.

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