Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Flagrant" : A Review of Kalash

When I look at any area and I’m trying to get a healthy feeling of exactly how the vibes of that particular region are, I like to try and take as wide of a current sampling as possible. Forgive me, but I’ve seen far too many HORRIBLE documentaries and specials regarding Jamaican music which mischaracterize the vibes in a particular way, usually largely based on the work of Bob Marley (and I always find myself wondering what that particular filmmaker might think about his categorizations if I were to play him an Elephant Man tune), which is generally assumed to represent the entire scene. So, when I do this I do so try to take in more information and experience. For example, if you’d been following the UK scene for the past few years, of course you’d be fully prepared to ONLY declare it the new home for modern Lover’s Rock music, but in doing so you’d ignore recent lights such as Gappy Ranks and the wicked Mr. Williamz. The Virgin Islands? Of course looking at the finely crafted work of people like Batch and Tuff Lion and the Benjamin Bros. one would just go on and say that the VI is where Jamaica circa 1970 had parked itself, but then I’d be compelled to ask of you - What in the hell do you find in 1970 which sounds like NiyoRah or Pressure Busspipe or even Revalation? So, in hopes of getting as specific as possible, I’m going to do that - Try and get as specific as possible. Up until now, every time it came to analyzing the case of Reggae and Dancehall from out the French Caribbean, I always took a very large and broad sampling, but as I listen to more and more and learn more and more, I’m now more confident in distinguishing places from places, even within that same scope. In the case of the most visited stop, Guadeloupe, we can see crystal clear just how much of an emphasis has been placed on artist development. Perhaps not intentionally, but when you have PILLARS of artists such as Admiral T, Tiwony and others (and pillars in terms of SKILL), getting a next contingent of youths flowing in such as Saïk and Lady Sweety is less of a surprise. Truly, I could sit here and say that in terms of pure talent, Guadeloupe may just be one of the richest Reggae ports in the entire world (and I am saying that). But that GUADELOUPE, the second most popular stop, of course, would be Martinique and when you really start to get into the vibes of Madinina, you don’t see the same thing that you see in Gwada, for the most part. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t incredible talents there, if there weren’t you wouldn’t be reading this unearthly long review.

It is, however, the TYPES of talents from out of Martinique which is most interesting as I can honestly say that CONSISTENTLY the island offers some of the most UNUSUALLY talented individuals, producing some of the most colourful results, to say the least. To date, the most ‘colourful’ has probably been [L’Homme] Paille, the first scare crow of the Dancehall. You also see individuals such as Saël (of course), Mighty Ki La, Blenda, Mali, Straika (big artist) and Yeahman’C, who although very talented (especially Straika), in my opinion have much more of a RAW appeal than the seemingly carefully crafted catalogues of the aforementioned crowd of the likes of Admiral T, Tiwony and etc. Also, when it comes to RAW talent, definitely some of the younger artists from out of Nina, such as Elvys, X-Man (biggup X-Man) and a few others and I think I may have found the rawest of them all in the form of the extremely talented young DJ, Kalash. Although it’s taken me longer than I may have hoped for in such a situation to catch on, I now definitely recognize Kalash as the type of up and comer who can do big things in the game and maybe even take his popularity to a level which hasn’t been quite attained for Martinique in Reggae. So what makes him so interesting? The first thing you’re certain to notice about Kalash is the kind of BOOMING voice he has, reminiscent of his Jamaican counterparts such as Aidonia (to whom he is often compared), Baby Cham and Bounty Killer and call me crazy or easy to please if you like, but there’s something about a TALENTED DJ merely jumping on the mic and doing almost anything which will almost certainly and almost always grab my attention, just as it did in Kalash’s case (even though it took me awhile to realize it was him). In terms of the actual words, I’m thinking about the insanity that is either Paille or Mighty Ki La (Paille has . . . A lot of stuff going on there with him although he is very talented, while MKL, although less ostensibly zany, makes music which seems to accept the notion that there can be no middle ground in terms of pacing) which are two other very well known Dancehall DJ’s from out of Martinique (both of whom have albums) and while I’d say that MKL is more talented at this point, Kalash may have already risen to a point of equaling Paille lyrically which is definitely saying something. Well, now you can get your very own taste of exactly how well young Kalash has progressed in any range as he brings forth (to my knowledge) his very first album, for the very popular (and active) Chabine Productions, which is self titled. Apparently the album has already caused quite a bit of commotion and is being well received (in the sense that it’s been selling pretty well), which is, of course, a great thing, but the issue that I’m looking at is whether or not you’ll enjoy it - You might. Listening through Kalash, the album, I was almost immediately struck with two different (and opposing) thoughts. The first is that Kalash is VERY good. He clearly has a talent for this game and when he develops he’s almost certainly going to be a GREAT artist. HOWEVER, it seems as if he kind of shows the problems with youth as, at times, he seems to try to do too much which takes him ‘out of his elements’. The result is an album which, although certainly lacking in consistent quality, just as certainly has more than its fair share of brilliant flashes.

The album literally seems to go in spurts with its quality. Like I said, it lacks consistency and definitely that can be something which is attributed to age and having a big idea of how you want the album to sound (especially your very first album). But with that being said, if you aren’t able to appreciate the first load of tunes on this album - Seriously, go and find something else to do. Maybe I can make an exception to that condition with the very first selection on Kalash’s self titled debut album, but only because it’s an intro, after that however, beginning with ‘Champion Woman’ and last for the next few tunes, you should be impressed. The tune finds Kalash applying a few different types of tempos (or, he has an unaccredited guest), but ultimately raining supreme with the big blaring voice, which is how it should be, as he tells the world what type of woman is certain to catch his eye on the big song. Then the madness begins. ‘Pran Pié’ is FUCKING RIDICULOUS! The tune is absolute madness and it’s definitely one of the greatest guilty pleasures of 2010 thus far. The tune features Gwada veteran Lieutenant (who appears on probably every mixtape made everywhere, everywhere in the world in every genre) (and then a few more), who I’ve never been REALLY impressed with, but the Lieutenant more than just holds his own on the song. Meanwhile, Kalash provides the listener with pretty much everything you need to know that you’re dealing with a superior talent on the finest tune on the album altogether (also, if you were expecting for someone to jump up and say “lord evil”, you weren’t alone my friend). ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ takes the task of keeping the vibes high following that monster and it does very well with its old school Dancehall vibe and it does VERY well. This tune definitely shows that Kalash[nikov] can be effective with something besides the very hype type of vibes and it’s a very nice bit for the future when he REALLY gets a handle on what it is that he’s good at, because ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ is damn near masterful and it’s one of a kind on the album. Still, I’d argue the tune which follows is even stronger as ‘Es Zot Paré’ finds Kalash linking with the always welcomed Saël and doing so in an EXCELLENT fashion. Again, the tune isn’t the normal HEAVY type of Dancehall vibes, but Kalash shows that he can handle the more midtempo set and the tune is ultimately a very nice and bouncy one (love to hear Saël deejaying every so often) and one of the strongest on the album.

And then things . . . Change. I suppose you could make the case that ‘Mama’ is a nice song. It’s reportedly the next one up to receive a big push in terms promotion and it’s OKAY. It’s very straight forward, however, and it’s the type of tune (a kind of a ‘signature line’ of Reggae songs), on which he could have tried something different with the vibes, but it isn’t BAD. ‘Ne M’en Veaux Pas’ isn’t either (in fact, my cousin (a female) think it’s the best tune on the album), but it’s another unexceptional one to my opinion and I think I might hear a little autotune in there as well. The riddim is delightful and I’m thinking I’ve heard it before maybe, (hopefully Kalash passed it to Straika or Saël when he was finished with it). And then there’s ‘Ho No’. If you can, I’d suggest you skip this one altogether, because the melody will be stuck in your head for quite some time and that’s not a good thing because this freaky disco sounding . . . THING is probably HORRIBLE, but I hesitate to call it so because the damn thing is stuck so far in my brain I may need a procedure to remove it. ‘Gimme More’, which features a singer I’ve never heard of by the name of Mahalate (she’s pretty good), didn’t appeal to me at all. It’s a pretty straight forward POP record actually and not that that’s a bad thing inherently (because it isn’t), but again, it’s just unexceptional and it kind of sounds like it was done in a haste. All of that being said, however, if this one is pushed, even a little, it should be a big radio hit without much of a problem in my opinion. ‘Gallys Anthem’ which finds Kalash featured alongside a truly BIG artist in Daddy Mory was somewhat of a disappointment and not because it’s a bad song. Quite the contrary, it’s probably one of the better, however, these days anytime I hear the word ‘daggering’ in any form, I immediately dislike whatever it is that I’m hearing a lot more and the latter stages of the tune throws the unfortunately unburied word around a bit, which is a damn shame, ruining a perfectly good party song. And speaking of daggering, you immediately get the point on the following tune ‘Tout Mouille’ [‘All Wet’] with it’s pornish intro and really a running porn-like moaning behind the balance of the tune, very Vybz Kartel like. The tune, however and again, isn’t a total loss because the flow itself. Kalash shows excellent deejaying at times on the tune, effectively ‘bailing it out’ of being just a bad song, but it certainly would have been better sans the ‘pyro’ (biggup Pleen Pyroman).

Thankfully, on the final three tunes, things begin to right themselves and it all starts in the most interesting of ways as Kalash enlists the aforementioned Paille to join him on the WICKED ‘Don’t Talk’. This one has a big argument for being my second favourite tune on the album on the strength of being a TRUE Dancehall tune (vibes circa 1998 or so), it’s just so addictive and Dancehall heads like myself will eat it up. Not to overlook the fact that Paille’s not too subtle madness is a very welcome addition to the vibes of the album and when he first reaches he EASILY drops one of the finest verses on the entire album and a big lightening bolt to the full quality as well. On ‘Arrête Ton Film’ Kalash appears to tackle the same riddim Shyne and Barrington levy ran with on their famed ‘Bad Boyz’ combination tune and he does an excellent job with it. Again, the song shows that he can deal with these type of middle of the range songs (and just sitting here thinking about it, I’d probably say that Kalash grew up listening to A LOT of old Reggae music, because it’s definitely a welcome surprise to his vibes) which is an excellent quality of his looking forward. And finally is another combination track, ‘Toi Et Moi’, which happens to features Martinique Zouk diva and a label mate of Kalash’s, Christiane Vallejo. The SWINGING tune might be familiar to listeners because it also appeared on Vallejo’s album Metamorphose from a couple of years back. Unlike ‘Gimme More’, this one definitely has a vibes of its own and it doesn’t kind of fall in line with the kind of ‘run of the mill’ type of Zouk or Pop songs. It’s also very nice, although not a fitting end to the album, but strong is strong and ‘Toi Et Moi’ is strong.

Overall, I’m very happy that we’ve progressed to the stage where almost anyone can tune in and pick up Kalash, the album, digitally because it is a PERFECT example of a project where picking and choosing will most certainly come in handy. The tunes on the album which don’t quite measure up, fail to measure up in such a way that although they do remain interesting (everything Kalash will ever do will probably be interesting and just because it’s him doing it), they’re almost completely unremarkable for one reason or another. On the other hand, the truly GOOD of the album, like the first four tunes and the final three, are VERY good and they’re going to be very hard to ignore. So, unless you’re already a superfan of Kalash’s (in which case you probably didn’t need to read this most certainly flawed review), then I’d best recommend picking up this one digitally. And to return to the premise of the review and to speak on Kalash’s talent and potential talent in full - Certainly he needs a bit of ‘seasoning’. I’d like to see him maybe pick on a few more old school type of riddims because, despite his COMPLETELY new school style, he definitely has an ability which lends itself to that arena as well and I’d like for him to STREAMLINE his vibes as well. WHEN he does that (because he will, provided that he sticks around long enough), then with his very appealing style and ‘transferable’ skill, Kalash just may become the poster boy and torchbearer for almost EVERYTHING that is GREAT about modern Reggae from Martinique.

p.s. Yes I was disappointed ‘Bust It Up’ wasn’t on the album, the tune is amazing.

Rated 3/5
Chabine Productions
CD & Digital

Kalash @ Skyrock

[first review in block form. Pretty don't?]

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