Album review: Super Hi-Fi “Blue and White”

Super Hi-FI_Blue and White_album cover

Ezra Gale (bass) leads the all-star collective that is Super Hi-Fi through a full-length LP that mixes spot-on, hearty contemporary reggae with too much Brooklyn noisiness. Sometimes this album soars impeccably, while at certain moments it crumbles under the desire to be artistically new age. For one, several of the songs have vocals, and while the band is exceptional, even at low points, the lyrics can’t be carried by the melodies or voice. In an age where the caliber or reggae vocalists if extremely high- Blue and White quickly becomes a mixed bag.

“Keepin’ It Dirty”, “Gone”, “Blue And White”, and “Little Black Book” are exemplars of this juxtaposition. The vocal melodies and performances can’t hold up to the instrumentation. Do you remember The Gray Album? It was a mash-up of The Beatles and Jay Z and spawned a series of people mixing two incongruent artists. Blue and White feels like this, had one band been a high school punk band mixing on a tape deck in their garage and the other had been America’s greatest ska/rock steady band. May they were aware of this, hence the title being two colors (?).

Sometimes this combination works. “Space Needle” integrates metal into dub, ala Dub Trio. This is heavy, sensual, and fun. “Hole In My Life” is the album’s most bizarre song, but it works because its experimentation is explicit. It begins with utter noise and releases into a slender reggae groove. Jon Lipscomb can do a lot with his guitar, but here he best shows how withholding sometimes creates the widest success.

Alex Asher and Rick Parker share trombone duty. The double-down on horns offers an original sound. Madhu Siddappa (notably from Dub Is A Weapon) drums loosely, making for playful reggae with a bootleg Jazz ambiance. So, not surprisingly, Super Hi-Fi is at their best during dubs and jamming. This is the best way they let the city into the roots.

Granted, this is only my opinion. Many people, who I respect as musicians and critics, love experimental music. I, however, am admittedly a purest. Songs like “Gale Caution” is splendid ska. The murky trombone melody and the ripping organ and bass make for playfulness, and the noisiness is restrained to a few short measures before the groove kicks back in. This is what I wanted more of. This is Super Hi-Fi at their best and Blue and White breathes into this space too infrequently.

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