July 13, 2012

Icon Give Thank (FRKWYS Vol. 9)

I would've passed on this one if my record store friend hadn't mentioned it, twice. This is a guy with long, white hair and a shiny bald spot on the top of his head and about a gazillion records, so he's not an easy lay, at least not musically e.g. I tried to turn him on to Sun Araw last summer, but he couldn't understand all the fuss. He knew The Congos, though, and he leant this a serious ear, and it became an instant fave, so I procured, and I can't recall neenernet mention of the goodies stuffed inside - DVD, digital download, fold-out full-color poster with a collage like the one that spreads across the inner gatefold of The Harder They Come, with just enough images of reefer and reefer devotion ("WEED IS LIFE") to make me think thrice about hanging it in my office. The cover is gorgeous, with a wrap-around sticker like the old Folkways records, except it's wrapped around a cover with art instead of just plain black cardboard. And the music. This is one of those records that make the whole concept of writing about music more clearly pointless. You can say something like, As soon as I drop the needle, my whole house melts, dogs and all, or, Those voices: It's coooooming it's cooooming it's cooooming it's cooooming, and it'll be totally true and total bullshit. I will say this: every record should come with a documentary of its making, one without talking heads, a mix tape of two-senses ambiance, verité without veridicality, in HD. So beautiful, this film. This record is a high-water mark on the human experience.

Grab FRKWYS Vol. 9 on CD or LP from RVNG Intl.


  1. It's interesting, because I had kind of the opposite experience. I suggested to my Dub/Reggae loving DJ friend that we check it out one night - as it is rare that I can bring any sort of Jamaican music to the table that he hasn't heard/knows. So there we are, listening to it and it's kind of weak. The singing of course is charming and nice, but after the inital impact you notice they really do stick to repeating a few lines all the way through each song, there's not a great deal of personality shining through and thus it kind of seems a bit thrown together for me and samey. Likewise, with the instrumentation, nothing shines above the slight heavy-handed backing. Didn't feel any cracking basslines, or tightness in the rhythms (riddims).
    I appreciate that repetition has it's place for sure, but by the time you've heard the fellows croon "sing a happy song" for the 10th time on top of the squelches - but we both kind of agreed that it wasn't great. I was a bit disappointed. I wasn't expecting precisely crafted song-writing genius, and I know how great Reggae tunes don't necessarily have to have all the changes or profound lyrics to make them top tunes, but we both felt exactly the same way.
    Must be some sort of universal balancing moment, wherein you felt the fun side. No disrespect at all, it is a cool project in a great and interesting series.

  2. It's a "difficult" record in many ways from my perspective as well... I think a lot of people are overstating the ease of access... that is, "you'd like it if you like...", blah blah, that sort of thing. Look at Sun Araw, look at the Congos - "you like these guys", it's going to be "that sort of thing", but in reality it's a very different animal. The "making of" accompaniment to me feels particularly appropriate because the record is a very willful expression of what happened to the participants and how they felt, and for some it can't be much else.