Calibrated. Today I think I want to talk about a wonderful word which people like me and others tend to [over]use quite a bit when it comes to music. Now this term has very strong roots, particularly within the scope of the types of music we deal with around here and it is incredibly broad and can be (and is) used in description of a wide variety of different things. It is a word which can go overlooked and, simultaneously, be THE main reason why we even listen in the first place. Of course I am talking about the word VIBES. What is a vibe? Can anyone define it??? Sure you can because it, kinda/sorta, means just about anything you may want it to. It is a noun -- "I love the vibes on this tune" -- and a verb "the way they vibe this tune is damn impressive" -- and, again, sometimes it can mean virtually anything you want it to me. However, most often when you use the word VIBES, in any form, what you're describing is some type of feeling (generally positive, but not always. There're 'bad vibes') that the music gives you or leads you into, some way or another. Just to show how damn random I can be: I'm thinking now of the review or two I've done over the years for instrumental/Dub albums and one of them sticks out in my brain. Waaaaaayyy back in 2008, Achis Reggae favourite, the incomparable VI Reggae wizard, Tuff Lion, would give us an album by the name of "Ten Strings" which has gone on to be declared a Modern Classic on these pages. My experience with the subgenre is not deep, I'll admit, but it's likely the finest of its kind that I have ever heard (still holding out hope that we may someday see an "Eleven Strings"). I bring it up here because, in writing reviews for that type of work, as someone who LOVES the spoken word and all of the healthy opportunities of analysis it offers, I find it refreshingly challenging to attempt to bring a review of this length to such a project. It is writing almost exclusively based on VIBES. Writing based on what I feel. And as someone who has not a shred of actual musical talent, I would imagine the feeling that it gives me is a similar one to an artist who walks into the studio and hears some sweet piece of riddim. Maybe they feel like I do. Maybe they smile. Maybe they go through a range of emotions. Maybe they even see a few things in their head. Maybe they start to hum or tap on something. Maybe they hear a challenge. Maybe they welcome it. The same happens when I do hear some master of wordplay. The challenge is just as interesting and compelling for me and, again, given my total dearth of actual musical ability, I wonder if a certain musician or a producer might look at working with a gifted artist in the same way. Maybe they look at making a composition which will bring out their best as that challenge. Maybe the approach is different for everyone. Maybe it's highly technical or maybe they work spontaneously. Maybe it's just about the vibes.
That same word can be and is often used to denote some form of unity or chemistry in music as well -- "on this one you can really tell that artist and producer really vibe together quite well" -- which may be (it will) one of the ways in which we use it today as we take a most WELCOMED look at the return of one of the absolute favourites of this blog. It's been a minute! Ever since his scalding debut, 2008's "Lyrical Faya", Gwada/Swiss firebreather Cali P has essentially been a mainstay on my radar. What I heard back then was an obviously gifted chanter who and one who, clearly, was sitting on a goldmine of potential. Since then, Cali P has done nothing but fulfill on what I heard on that excellent project and, in doing so, has demonstrated himself to be amongst the genre's brightest of lights. Subsequent albums have delighted as, chasing "Lyrical Faya" was "Unstoppable" (more on that in a bit) and "i Thoughts" and, somewhere within that timespan, Cali P became my one of my absolute favourite artists. He has vibes.
And throughout his career, Cali P has been fortunate to 'vibe' with many a great talented maestros and producers, particularly on the European scene. Labels such as Pow Pow, Oneness Records, Weedy G Soundforce, Necessary Mayhem, Addis Records and a whole heap of others decorate his catalogue. Still, if you've been following the artist, then surely the label with whom you have come to most closely associate his work has been Hemp Higher Productions, who not only helmed both "Unstoppable" and "i Thoughts", but also a truly GOLDEN EP that Cali P would do in 2014 by the name of "Healing Of The Nation" ["Cause wi just give dem something, something weh dem neva si before. And di light weh wi shine pon dem mek dem run away fi sure!"] (BOOM!) (and biggup Hemp Higher, they're still hard at work, having released a single, 'Ma Lionne', for another of our favourites just earlier this year, Tiwony). But if you look into some of the finer details of Cali P's work, you begin to notice another very constant presence as well. At least two selections from "Lyrical Faya", 'Settle the Score' which featured Ras Charmer (biggup Ras Charmer) (Tiwony was also on that album as were Queen Omega & Straika D... you must be some kind of a damn fool if you haven't listened to "Lyrical Faya" by now) (no excuses!) (biggup Tiwony. Tiwony has vibes, like a lot of them) and 'Take Care of My Family' ["Righteous people ah go tek ova di globe and fi si dat, mi nuh need no blasted microscope!"] came via German imprint, Rootdown Records and producer Teka. Rootdown would also be involved on the "Healing Of The Nation" project with Teka building that GORGEOUS composition on which 'United We Stand' laid its head and were that enough (and it was), my absolute favourite song from "i Thoughts" was 'Guiding Shield' ["MI NO WORRY AND MI NO FRAID WHEN WI DEH PON DI BATTLEFIELD"] and I will give you one guess on who produced that one... some guy they call Teka on his fine Straight From The Fridge Riddim. And that's just material that would appear on albums (that I could actually source) they've also 'vibed' together on quite a few other singles (such as 'Tek De Beam', Cali's excellent cut of Rootdown's swinging Kokoo Riddim. And that's just THEM. I also VIBE with Teka's music. Personally, I can say that he's been behind more than a few of my favourites in the history of this blog such as Smiley's 'Distance' on the Tek A Train Riddim (which I just noticed that Teka may've named after himself) and, most notably, one of the best damn songs I have ever heard from anyone, the MASSIVE 'Slew U In The Open' ["Dem will dash you in the freezer til yuh frozen!"] from Natty King (which was on the iLove Riddim which also carried 'Need to Tell You This', a sizable hit from Ziggi Recado, who we also love). So, whether you know it or not, if you are a consistent fan of modern Roots Reggae music, you've probably also enjoy Teka's music at some point (he's really a fantastic, and predominately Roots, ace) (and just searching his name or 'Rootdown' on these pages reminds me how often we'd run into Teka's work over the years, working with the likes of Lloyd Brown, Dynamq, Hi-Kee (do you remember Hi-Kee???) (WHAT!). And, when you've been VIBING with someone for as long as Cali P and Teka have musically (going back nearly fifteen years as far as we know, but maybe even longer now), what comes next? Maybe they could make an album together?! Well, okay maybe not a full album, maybe you can build to that point and start with an EP... but when you have THIS much vibes, apparently one won't do it. Thus, Cali P and Teka bookended 2019 with a pair of EPs, "Vizion I" and "Vizion II", respectively. And I hadn't heard from Rootdown in quite awhile and that was likely due to the fact that Teka had moved away from the label and started his own LowLow Records outfit in Berlin which officially released the set. And CLEARLY the idea was that, because I was on hiatus when the EPs released initially and didn't have the opportunity to review them, artist and producer --having so much respect for me-- decided to take that logical next step and have now set out to the masses, "Vizion", the full album (there is absolutely no way in hell that happened like that) (NONE!). Both EPs featured four songs and they are combined with five others (a mixture of previous singles and new tracks) to bring the number up to a thicker thirteen in total. They've also been very attentive in regards to the promotion, with several tunes birthing videos (quite a few, actually) and digital singles as well. Someone, somewhere thought that "Vizion" had vibes.