Ex-Centric Sound System Afro Riddim Sessions Vol. 1

Afro Riddim Sessions came about by accident. Following the four-year gap between Yossi Fine’s first and second discs (the disappointing West Nile Funk), the Ex-Centric main man found himself in Jamaica being interviewed for radio. Apparently, the tracks played during the broadcast were so inspiring to certain artists who had heard them that they tracked Fine down with the intent to collaborate with him. The haphazard and unplanned recording circumstances have culminated in the best EXS album to date. The deep, Africanised hand-drum and kalimba dominated dub rhythms serve the vocals, so there’s never a question of the focal point to each mix. Fine is a producer of songs for this project rather than instrumental epics, so he has to sharpen his polyglot of influences to succeed for Jamaican pop considerations and to the rigours of a three-minute tune. Despite the pop song track lengths, the overall sound is less poppy than most modern roots material from the island. Each of the MCs and singers sound like they’ve got their A-game going, which is very often not the case with producers "from away” trying to capture the spirit of contemporary dancehall. Part of this is due to most of these lesser known MCs having something to prove, but even well-known artists like Anthony B and Prezedent Brown sound truly excited to work in these scenarios. Sequenced in a continuous mix, with named rhythms, Fine seems ready to pare it down to a one riddim album if any one of these tunes really takes off. His polyrhythmic skill is up to that challenge, and his unsweetened production style seems to put a charge in all of the artists he’s worked with here. (Independent)