Rise Ashen Earth Dragon

Ottawa-based nu-jazz producer Eric Vani, aka Rise Ashen, weaves an exotic collage of dub, house, and worldbeat on Earth Dragon, while slipping in a subtle but insistent appeal for greater social awareness and responsibility. Opener "Change Our Ways” is a hazy blend of dub, soothing vocals and ascending horn choruses. It’s a far cry from the usual fruits of a typically hedonistic and politically-insulated genre, but Vani softens the blow with dance floor anthems, "Rock This Beat” and "Let It Move You.” Meanwhile, other tracks avoid heavy-handedness by reiterating a simple message, such as "Fight to Hang On” or the tabla-based groove of "Howyougonnaliveyourlife,” whose title serves as a call for free-thinking individuality. Musically, there’s incredible organic warmth to Vani’s compositions, which effortlessly traverse African, Jamaican, and Brazilian borders. Chunky beats, deep bass lines, and soulful echoes abound, from the stuttering dub of "Seasons” to album closer "One Love,” the most outspoken expression of Vani’s belief in "one love, one life, one soul, one plight” for humanity. (Fossil Fuel)