Album review: Alific “Electric Radio”

Alific_EclecticRadio-cover

Alific has been around. He’s lived in several major U.S. cities, and through that has been exposed to myriad sounds of influence, beginning with his time as bassist in Stick Figure. Then he absorbed the DJ scene. After playing keys for The Movement for a while, he set out on his own again. Two years after Pacific, Alific unleashes Electric Radio.

What is this album? Let’s qualify it as DJ music. The use of the studio is effervescent throughout these 14 tracks. But the music is really steeped in reggae, as well as hip-hop. The melting of these genres has been done time and time again, but Alific is so seamless that he’s, in a way, built his own unique sound. The electronic vibe is upbeat, ethereal, and glitzy, reminiscent of Lemon Jelly. But the crux of Electric Radio is the soulfulness combined with fun.

“Bulletproof” conveys this perfectly. Vinyl scratches sneak in under slide guitar, dub style horns, and a fat snare and kick beat. The ending, with vocal synths echoing over an ever growing silence, marks Alific’s use of mixing. Then, songs like “Dawn of The Kessel Run” (does anyone know the reference?), are tighter. In many ways, it’s SoCal vibes, but the number of instruments and their placement in layers, throws in a modern dub style. “Desert Drifter” sounds like Spy From Cairo, drenched in Middle Eastern flare. “Dubbers” is more restrained, but still polished. As per the name, it settles into a meditative groove while splintering horns dance around over it.

The instrumentals are definitely better than the songs with vocals, simply because Alific’s mastery is in compositions, not his voice. But his love of hip-hop and his positive messages, often centered around a short narrative of some kind, work well for what he’s doing here- the best of which is “Soul DJ”. “You can’t kill the vibe so strong/ If it feels this good/ it can’t be wrong… If you don’t know the words/ just hum along… Singing ooh-la-la-la.” I’ve critiqued this kind of lyricism before, but for Alific the old school rapping style matches the fun, exploratory energy of Electric Radio overall.

Really, this album contains no categorically bad songs. The invitation to dance, sing along, and blast the bass loudly is evident at ever juncture. A tuned in ear can pay attention to how much care has gone in to tweaking and mixing these sounds, many of them performed by Alific himself. You don’t have to like reggae to like this album, but if you do, you’ll note the Stick Figure and The Movement influences (especially on “Wilmington Jam”, featuring J Smiles from The Movement). Then again, perhaps it’s a bidirectional affect. I’m sure Alific, with all his skill, has expanded the horizons of those he’s played with. For now, though, Electric Radio is his own, an interesting, funky, upbeat party album. Who could say no to that?

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