Friday, March 11, 2011

'The Shadow': A Review of "Inflammable" by Paille

Hang around here long enough and you’ll soon discover that I’m someone who likes to often focus on some of the ‘heavier’ aspects of music such as the artists themselves, the message behind their music and definitely their lyrics. I think I have pretty good reason to also. You just won’t find Reggae music discussed in such a way many other places and I really think when you can actually see words to songs in your face (particularly in Reggae, where the dominant language isn’t widely comprehended across the world). However, with that being said and supported, I also think that it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that Reggae, Dancehall, Soca, Zouk and all music, in general, is also a form of theatre and pure entertainment to an extent and one of the ways in which this is most evident is looking at the list of CHARACTERS you’ll encounter in the music. Now, with that being said, I think that I can rather confidently state that we don’t have very many outrageous or amazing personalities currently in Reggae, but there’re a few. At the top of the heap, obviously, is the ultra/constantly controversial Vybz Kartel. Almost to a painful degree, his actions are seemingly THE actions of an entire genre and I think even Kartel, himself, would agree that he is too closely followed (and I’m probably guilty of adding to that as well, but in my own defense (as if I care), I do, unlike just about everyone else, focus on his music). We also have the inimitable Elephant Man who, from a purely visual standpoint, may just be THE most interesting figure ever cast in the Dancehall (which is saying a TON). Ele is the main comparison point here (more on that in a minute), because he’s been that way for such a very long time that, much in the same way Bounty Killer’s name will come up ANYTIME there is a young artist excelling at gun lyrics, anytime someone comes about who seems just a bit out of the ordinary, Ele’s name will almost certainly be the one most brought up. There’ve also been the likes of Beenie Man, surely Lady Saw, recently Protoje who’s proving to be one the genre’s most curious finds in quite some time and Ninja Man (and even the Killer to some degree) who, by other musical means than strictly what they’re capable of doing in the studio, have reinforced how crucial it is to be entertaining. Still, almost without exception if you put all of them in silhouette, they’re likely not to be as recognizable as one of the lesser known EXPLOSIVES in Dancehall music, Paille.

"N'Oublie Pas"

Where do I start with Paille . . .? Okay, ‘paille’ or ’pay’ is French/Creole for ‘straw’. When I first heard of the DJ from out of Madinina his full name was Le Homme Paille [The Straw Man]. So we have a Beenie Man and a Ninja Man and a Straw Man. What is likely to make the outline of Paille so interesting is the fact that, as his name would suggest, he is almost never seen without his . . . Trusty (?) straw hat on his head - A trait which is undoubtedly his own in Dancehall. Now, much like Elephant Man (thankfully), what you’ll notice after looking at Paille and then listening to him is that he OBVIOUSLY has talents and his talent has raised him to the point where he is arguably one of the most popular names on the Dancehall heavy FWI scene. Back in 2008, Paille caught the attention of the region’s dominant Reggae/Dancehall label, Don’s Music, who would serve up ”Mots Pour Maux”, the debut album from the DJ and that album, along with his various singles (before and since) would help to solidify not only his talent, as a whole, lining up with his other impressive young peers such as Krys and Saïk, but also someone who injected quite a bit of colour into the genre. Although VERY lyrically proficient, Paille seems to do his absolute best when the ‘limits’ on what he can and cannot do are taken away - The crazier the tune is, the better he can be. And now apparently he’s gotten mad again because he’s back with his sophomore release, the fittingly and appropriately titled, ”Inflammable”, also for Don’s Music. Last year, which happened to be one of the best for the label in recent times (and maybe even the best one ever, actually), their releases included a two track EP/preview for the forthcoming album, ”N’oubile Pas” [pictured], which had the title track, of course, and what became the album’s first single, the ’off’ ‘Fé Yo Mal’. Apparently not only did the release do a nice bit of damage for Paille (I was pretty surprised when I noticed that it had also been released on CD (as well as digitally), which is just very strange for an EP these days), but the single, in particular did as well and although this album somewhat crawled out to the masses (I found it had been released and was pretty fucking surprised), the anticipation for this release has become quite high. I cannot say that Paille registers on levels such as Admiral T or Tiwony or Krys as THE top and most popular names that Kreyol Dancehall has to offer, but he exists more on the kind of level which is above the ’underground’ and with projects like these, at least presumably, his popularity will rise. I should also mention that Paille, in one way, is emblematic of Reggae and Dancehall from out of Martinique. Guadeloupe, with names like the aforementioned Admiral T, Tiwony, Krys and Saïk has a reputation in music which is refined and detailed. Madinina, by contrast, with artists such as Mighty Ki La, Kalash and DEFINITELY Paille (maybe I could also include Straika, but he is the potential exception to that rule), has much more of a free-flowing type of vibes and they simply do not get any freer than Paille. SO, when new fans come looking at ”Inflammable”, what they’ll find is a very talented DJ who, as I said, gets only better as things become more and more chaotic. They’ll also find a pretty good album (with a very cool cover), which we should discuss now!

'Réd Son'

Thankfully, although thriving more and more the closer and closer he gets to chaos, much like Ele, Paille is just very talented in general. I hold talents such as those possessed by the likes of Admiral T, Lady Sweety and Saïk to be TRULY at the top of the game in Kreyol Dancehall, but honestly Paille isn’t very far from those names and I’d say he’s more naturally gifted with the spoken word than others such as Mighty Ki La, Kalash, Lieutenant, SamX (although damn strange on his own) and really most of the names on the scene these days (and some of them are my favourites as well). All of that definitely helps going into his the new album from Paille, ”Inflammable” which gets started in a fairly expected manner with the HUGE sounding ’Spartiate’. I think that it’s changed these days, but when I first got into listening to this music and REALLY began to pay attention to it vibes from out of the FWI, the Dancehall tune that was almost overwhelmingly LARGE sounding was very very common. Like I said, it’s not the case these days (thankfully. I do enjoy them mixed in, but it’s almost like Dancehall Heavy Metal when overdone), but this tune, which is, essentially a very long intro, is very good as Paille gets things started as flamingly expected on the album. With the introductions handled, it’s time to have some fun and that’s EXACTLY what we get on the second track, my favourite on the entire album, ‘Réd Son’. This tune is downright intoxicating with its old school Dancehall vibes backing Paille who attacks the riddim on what may be the album‘s next single as it can currently be heard mashing up radio stations in certain parts of the Caribbean. The song is also a roaring example of just how destructive Paille can be at the height of his formidable powers and these just may be my favourite tune that he’s EVER done to date - It’s HUGE! The tune charged with keeping that intensity up actually slows things wayyyyyyy down - the haunting ‘Elle Me Hante’ [‘Haunting Me’]. This very unpredictable track just adds to the attraction of the album, as a whole. You can’t guess what Paille is going to do next and although I don’t rate this one as one of the album’s standouts for me, personally, it very much is easily one of the greatest sonic experiences to be found here (particularly later on in the song when things really pick up).

‘Fé Yo Mal’

On the ”Mots Pour Maux” album Paille was joined by a number of his big named peers such as Straïka D, Kalash, Mali, Pleen and even Anthony B, and while not as many join him here, he definitely has a nice contribution from just a few names. The biggest of them all, Jamaican star Konshens, turns in an expectedly excellent performance on the social commentary, ‘Assez’. I can’t actually say that either big artist outshines one another (because neither does), but both set forth a lyrically explosive track which is definitely not to be missed. Somewhere in the middle of his verse Paille hits a perfect stride and never looks back and even if he did, Konshens wouldn’t have been very hard behind with his offering. On the album’s second combination, ‘Inmin Mwen Anko’, Paille links with the most reclusive songstress, Lea Galva. You’ll still find quite a few people who’ll swear that Galva is simply the most talented Zouk singer EVER and whatever you think of her, you’re sure to come to the conclusion that she makes a very nice pair with Paille on the nice lover’s track (and hopefully this is just a signal Galva being just a bit more active). And later, the young MC Kim Angel joins Paille on the biggest single to emerge from ”Inflammable” before it dropped, the aforementioned ‘Fé Yo Mal’. This DAMAGING tune is madness from it first reaches and for me, it’s every bit as fun as anything you’ll find on Ele’s latest release. This is the type of song which distinguishes Paille, because not only can he do it (and many of his peers can), he’s managed to perfect and although I still favour ‘Réd Son’, this tune basically blows over the listener and forces them to take notice of just how big it is.

'N'Oublie Pas'

Certainly the DJ isn’t going to suffer left on his own, not with this type of talent, and he actually excels as a matter of fact. A song like the gal tune ‘Fanm Lan’ is a good example of why because it is outstanding. If you want extremely fun Dancehall, this is another big tune for you and on an album which isn’t starving for such moments, ‘Fanm Lan’ is still one of the most fun. There’s also the aforementioned tune ‘N’Oublie Pas’ which comes through on a most refreshing and fulfilling one-drop and is gorgeous. And the actual album closer is another big tune, ‘Assé’ which took a minute to grow on me (because I didn’t actually listen to the entire thing the first few times through (even though I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this one somewhere before), but when it did, it really flourished into this incredible vibes and another big sounding Dancehall tune (although not as big as the opener) (but a better song). And the album also features two interludes which are actually pretty funny, the rather clever ‘Paillardise’ and 'Le Retour De La Vengeance De L’éclate’ (yes that’s the title). Both are pretty nice, but especially the latter.

There’re two tunes on ”Inflammable” which I don’t like very much, ‘Révé’ and ‘Dr. House’. The former is a Zouk song. Paille sings it and it’s very straight forward (and lovely sounding too), but you know I can’t listen to men sing Zouk and the song (at least to my most uneducated of ears) is in dire need of a female vocalist to play along (one named Goldee, specifically). The latter is a Hip-Hop song and doesn’t reach far enough, in my opinion, to take advantage of Paille’s talents - But I should say that this one is currently growing on me.

'Pleurer' [Studio version featuring Cindy Faustin. Not on album]

And finally surviving from the first album onto ”Inflammable” is a stretch of live songs (this album has three, the first had four and also on ”Mots Pour Maux” - They later released a collector’s edition which (you should still be able to find) featured a full DVD with interviews and performances - A tactic which Don’s Music, HOPEFULLY, repeats here) (and they also did it with an old album from Saël) (I digress) which really takes you into the vibes of Paille even more. Again, just like Ele, he has a reputation of being one of the Dancehall’s greatest performers and some of the album’s most exciting moments comes in this trio of tunes (especially the second one). I should also mention that I don’t know for sure if they’re actually LIVE or just made to sound like so, but I don’t care that much either. Getting us started is ‘Dexter’ (yes, Dexter) which is, initially, too electric for my tastes, but in its time, well over six minutes, it eventually rights its own ship. Then we get the fucking flaming ‘Pa Sa Palé Bay’ which also takes a little while to get going (not a problem when you’re six and a half minutes long), but when it does it’s clearly one of the best moments here and if it is an actual show (and I’m convinced that it is), I wasn’t there and I’m jealous as hell. The tune also changes in its latter stages to a SWEET Soca tune which is very nice as well. And lastly is ‘Pleurer’, one of Paille’s big hits, which the crowd (real or computerized) really responds to. The song slows things down (which isn’t hard to do following what it follows) and Paille hands singing duties off to his crowd who do so well as do the backup singers. Just like the tune which precedes it, ’Pleurer’ also appears (in studio form) on the ”Mots Pour Maux” alongside the delectable Cindy Faustin who doesn’t join Paille here (at least I don’t think she does), but is well accounted for by the fans.

Overall, yeah - This one is very nice. I should say that, at least in theory, for all of Paille’s flair, he holds something in common with most of his ‘terrestrial’ peers: His is a talent which is very immediately appreciable. I often reach these points where, and just as I’ll say of songs (and as I’ve said about songs on this album as well), I’ll say that the artist, in general, is one whose vibes take awhile to REALLY grasp and that is not the case with Paille. His talent, in my opinion is likely to resonate with most fans of Dancehall. ”Inflammable” isn’t leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, but it is slightly and it’s also another rousing display of the abilities of one of the most interesting characters in the music - Paille: The Scarecrow of the Dancehall.

Rated: 4.25/5
Don's Music
CD + Digital
Paille @ Myspace
Paille @ Facebook

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