Jensen Beach’s Ellameno Beat (get it?) self-released their debut album Surface, and it’s a refreshing dose of laidback roots reggae vibes. Thankfully, the lyrics aren’t lost in the beachy feel and lowkey vocals, a sound so many other bands have harnessed, as if “going reggae” without understanding the messages therein. But Reggie Froom (guitar/vocals), James Rosenblit (drums), Dylon Hixon (bass), Matt Diamond (Trumpet/vocals), and Walker Brantingham (keys) reel in what could otherwise be hokey Florida reggae and show their potential.
On the flip side, none of the songs are overly catchy, but they are easily learnable and fun to groove to. “Bumpy Road” starts off Surface and is a prime example. The plunky key intro leads to a slow tempo groove. “The truth carries us through,” Reggie suggests, “Ready yourself.” It’s a call to action, but couched in the floating instrumentation.
Horns add texture to “One Of Us”, a faster song, which suffers from lyrical droll, but is possessed with funk and energy that outshines the cliché. Reggie is one of those singers who belts with such gusto that he can take a mundane line and fill it with emotion, but that’s not where this song excels. Rather, the production is lo-fi enough to make it sound like this band is all together in one room, utilizing effects pedals to wonderful outcomes. In fact, the dubs and jams throughout Surface help set it apart.
One of Reggie’s best performances is on “Distance”, where he throws his voice around the tight, locked in groove (big ups Walker for the fat bubble on the keys). The vocal harmonies also draw this song together. “Until the end/ still we hold,” Reggie hopes, “So I’m keeping my distance/ from my own.” That warm, organic sound extends into “Take Me Away”, where the horns once again blaze, but it’s the dub interplay that really vibrates. This is meditation music more than dance music.
The key track, however, is “Muse”, mainly because of the synth melody that starts everything off. Most of Surface has restrained tempos, but “Muse” is particularly mellow. “It’s a been a little while since I’ve seen your face/ I’m where I want to be,” Reggie begins. “So come to me/ where the water runs deep/ The sun, the sea/ where the wildlife sleeps.” It’s good!
I hear everything from Tribal Seeds to Van Gordon Martin, and a little Slightly Stoopid wrapped up in Ellameno Beat- yet they have an original sound, too. Blending old-school reggae themes with contemporary sensibility, combining pop-centric savvy while respecting reggae traditions- these are difficult tasks. But The Ellameno Beat work hard at it and the payoff is Surface, an attractive, sensual album that’s equal parts political, spiritual, playful, and romantic. So, maybe it’s not the best reggae album ever, but as far as continuity and balance go, a lot of contemporary reggae bands could learn a lot from these up-and-comers.