Roots reggae is a musical genre with stylistic rules that are stricter than those governing most kinds of music, so it's very unusual -- bordering on the amazing -- to find a roots reggae band that has a truly unique sound. Midnite has achieved that with Vijan, an impressive collaborative project between the bandmembers and the house producers at the Virgin Islands-based I Grade label. The band's most obvious stylistic referent here is early Burning Spear, who practically pioneered this particular approach: long, dark, slow songs that come across more like liturgical chants than typical verse-chorus-verse songs. But Midnite's vocal sound is different and its rhythms have more tensile strength, more density and elasticity. As is the case with Burning Spear, Midnite's weak point is melodies, though there are a few fine ones on Vijan. The album's best track is a gorgeous song titled "Yeah Many" (a phrase that sounds confusingly like "Yemeni" when Vaughn Benjamin sings it), and there are nyahbinghi influences throughout, especially on the gently rolling "Structa." "Days Come" is too long and frankly boring, and "Scornful" is an unsuccessful experimental departure from the reggae format. But just about everything else on this powerful album is spectacular. Highly recommended.
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