African Head Charge

Voodoo of the Godsent

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Producer Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label has been home to some of the strangest characters in modern reggae music, but few quite as inscrutable as percussionist Bonjoh Iyabinghi Noah, who records (infrequently) under the name African Head Charge. AHC's music isn't really reggae; it's a sort of hodge-podge of ethnomusicological found sound, dubbed-up layers of percussion, and guitars (provided here, as usual, by On-U Sound mainstay Skip "Little Axe" McDonald) and frequently unidentifiable scraps and snippets of sound gathered up from who-knows-where, all of it threaded together on a string of reggae-inflected drumming and bottomless, thrumming basslines. Much of AHC's music would sound downright creepy if it weren't for Noah's unceasing cheerfulness. On "The Best Way," he happily opines that "the best way is to love," while McDonald's glistening, bluesy guitar licks dance around a rhythm that sounds like it's derived from samples of a ping-pong match. The unabashedly horticultural "Take Heed" ("… and smoke up your collyweed") features drastically altered vocal samples from the late Prince Far I, while the vocal samples on "Stone Aged Man" are genuinely creepy and at times, downright distressing, an effect not helped by the tune's slightly seasick 6/8 rhythm. As is usually the case with an African Head Charge album, it's difficult to tell where Noah's work ends and the influence of producer Adrian Sherwood begins, but the two of them have always constituted two sides of the same musical coin anyway. Newcomers to African Head Charge might want to start with Song of Praise or In Search of Shashamane Land and work their way up to the even deeper weirdness of Voodoo of the Godsent, but for established fans, this album is as welcome as a thunderstorm in the desert.

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