Triumphant horns. Heady echoes. Quality vocalists. Massive bass. Tour De Force
are all that and more, arguably at the forefront of sound system culture within America. Thus Battle Cry
is an appropriate - and timely, given their upcoming Hong Kong gig
- musical statement, one that takes the past and produces the future. The instrumental opener sets the tone, but its the vocalists that truly capture the Dub-Stuy collective
's musical vision.
On “Roots Lyrics,” Brother Culture serenades the origins of roots in the chorus, while the verses focus on the diverse modern realities of reggae music. “Strong To Survive” begins with a sample, pointing out the continuing presence of Babylon within Western culture, before a simply overpowering digitally-infused bass-line enters the equation: DUBstep. From there, Jahdan Blakkamoore handles a slightly mutated Sleng Teng riddim on “Pool Party,” celebrating the niceties of summer weather and aquatic activities. A touch of the irie, if you will.
Next comes the appropriately mellower “Old Time Love,” released late last year on a lead EP
, with Jay Spaker crooning atop a sparser track that allows his melodic vocal to mix nicely with the thick bass. “Tiger Style” channels pure late 70s dub vibes, melodica and all, before Luciano takes his turn upon the mic on “Where Do We Go Wrong.” Introspective and optimistic, the lyrics promote unity and the necessity of neighborliness - an important theme given the role of sound systems in facilitating street parties.
Jay Spaker returns on “A Little Bit More,” a heavy rasta tune, and then the slow thunder of “Warmongers” reminds the listener that this is very much a 2014 production. In closing, “The Traveler” continues this aesthetic by laying an acoustic Eastern-tinged melody atop interweaving instruments. By the final fade out, Tour De Force has certainly made it clear that they are a force to be reckoned with; equally crucial is the sociocultural relevance of an emerging American scene to contrast the explosion of reggae within Asia, Europe, and South America.
Now available in vinyl
formats for purveyors of all persuasions. There’s also a recent mini-documentary by FACT Magazine on Dub-Stuy Records’ philosophy and outlook on music that is well-worth watching: