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The Black Seeds | Dust and Dirt

album review by John Powell

The Black Seeds | Dust and Dirt

Five albums deep, New Zealand’s The Black Seeds have pretty much conquered their pairing of reggae and funk- which has always been in a 70s revival meets European trip/hop, which is to say: They sound freaking original.

Yet, with Dust and Dirt they still sound like themselves. Luckily, the influences and styles vary so much within their general reggae-style that it doesn’t sound old. It sounds like more, and this is one thing the prolific The Black Seeds are good at, too.

“Out of the Light” is a strange start to their newest release. The band has ventured in psychedelia a bit more, and here they sound out with rock n’ roll rumble, a misty synth swirling below bass n’ drums. It barely builds beyond a few more whirls. As an intro, it’s risky, but if this is your first The Black Seeds album than just listen on, soon they’ll leave this funky Radiohead-type song for their signature moves.

Namely, the title track, an easy skank. Lead singer Barnaby Weir has his coo on, but it’s the musicianship that always strikes the right chords. The band is so tight, and the groove is stellar: horns bursting in like heroes and the drum n’ bass always on fire.

The band has a habit of naming their songs unhelpful things, like “Pippy Pip”, with, “You can hold your head up high/ don’t be afraid of your light.” There’s not a lot of Pippy Pip in there, but there is a ton of pep, worldly instrumentation (is that a marimba I hear?), handclaps- no reggae groove, but the funk is scorching.

Look no further than “The Bend” to help you understand The Black Seeds. Keys and bass fill the void, along with percussion both kit and hand, evolve into the sweetest, head thumpiest, bounce bounciest groove. “In the morning/ when she wakes/ her eyes do itch/ her heart does ache,” Barnaby sings. “I don’t think I can do this all again/ I’m so tired.”

“Frostbite”, “Love Me Now”, and “Don’t Turn Around” also have that classic The Black Seeds sound. Every time, you want to say, “Oh, it’s the bass that makes it,” then the keys do something that changes your mind. Then the guitars get tricky and you change your mind again. The Black Seeds have no shortage of quality.

The instrumental “Loose Cartilage” is the winner, though, like a spy gliding over the hood of his car, a song for a montage of 70s afro kung fu or detectives on the case. Warning: do not listen to while driving. You will speed.

On the downside, The Black Seeds albums all have somewhat muffled vocals. Learning the lyrics takes a thousand listens because the vocals just aren’t clear enough. Also, The Black Seeds were always more focused on their groove than stimulating lyrics, and while the songs aren’t poorly written, they aren’t magnificently life changing either. Still, you can’t go wrong with a bunch of cool guys jamming out to funk and reggae, especially when they’re as good at it as The Black Seeds are.

Bottom line: Don’t know The Black Seeds? You should, and Dust and Dirt is a reason why.


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