The clean and crisp productions, along with a mixture of analog and digital instrumentation, certainly do not belie the power of the melodica in the hands of Art-X
; yes, Augustus Pablo is being channeled here - Toy Story
, it is safe to assume, is more Jamaica than Pixar - with the talented soloist joined by a bevy of experienced underground dub producers, most notably Lab Frequency, Manu Digital, Ondubground, and Panda Dub.
Opener “Balls & Speed” (feat. Roots Raid) has a hint of analog crackle before the tight drums and keys spill nicely into a soulful melodica hook, teased by sound effects. “Dub Woman” prioritizes a funky groove, with a wordless vocal sample kept short. The epic intro of “Pull It Up” paves the way for a reserved electro steppers tune from Dawa Hifi; “Musical Town” sounds like Mungo’s Hi Fi’s Ruff Mi Tuff Riddim except that the expected rough vocals are replaced by a smooth blow-organ melody. That’s the key here: Art-X is clearly cultivating a myriad of sounds, but by interweaving the standout melodica wisely, what could have easily been vintage nostalgia is instead comfortable yet inventive - 70s Jamaican vibes with 40 years of outernational influence.
“Dub That” is a solid jam with Ondubground, echoes and reverb in all the right places; Panda Dub takes the controls on “Cotton” with similarly strong results. “Swimming Dub” brings thicker bass into the mix, a trend logically continued on “Heavy Blow” (feat. Hatman). Then “Inity” takes things to a deeper state of consciousness, with Miniman providing a sonic canvas worthy of the classic roots era. “Political War” is more upbeat steppers, with nary a pause, setting up the brassy closer “Radical Plan” by Brain Damage, which is heavy with some massive echo. A lot of standout tracks here, free download via Original Dub Gathering