Artists on Artists
On 30, Nov 2014 | In Artists on Artists | By jane
Australia’s powerhouse, Blue King Brown, dropped their long awaited new album, Born Free, last month. The ARIA-nominated group has developed a reputation on their powerful vocal and lyrical content and their original fusion of global and urban influences. This record carries that signature sound forward and takes it a step deeper into a reggae-driven terrain.
The heart of the group are the multi-talented Nattali Rize and Carlo Santone who write all the lyrics and have also historically done most of the production. For this album, while they have still put their own stamp on production, they also enlisted the skills of an all-star production team from around the world. The new album includes contributions from Notis (Kingston, Jamaica), Mista Savona (Australia), Styalz Fuego (2012 ARIA Producer of the Year), Chris Macro (New Zealand, Macro Dubplates, Scribe/Katchafire) and multi-Grammy-Award mix engineer James ‘Bonzai’ Caruso (Damian Marley/Stephen Marley, Gwen Stefani, among many more).
Do yourself a favour and give this record more than one spin – it deserves a proper listening session, on good speakers, turned up loud. I challenge you not to get your dance on. Then, when you’re ready, nudge the volume down a couple notches so you can really hear what is being laid out lyrically. This is a master class in rebel music. The thesis is an impassioned plea for peace, a lament to unification and an assertion that the time has come for change. While there are several stand-out tracks, this should be experienced as a whole album. It plays to me like a journey into an ancient movement that dates back to the point of contact and finds the breath for its voice in the current Indigenous stand for justice and struggle for land and country. All of this is skillfully composed into tracks that command the body to dance, chant and move; tracks full of hooks and memorable melodies referencing the old school reggae songbook.
If you’re not a reggae fan, don’t despair, there is something here for everyone. This is music for the people in the truest sense. The believers and cynics alike will find a compelling narrative here. The lyrics reflect the universal desire in us all for a better future. If lyrics aren’t your thing, let the music speak for itself. Nattali’s vocals are tight, her phrasing deep in the pocket, and her melodies fully realised with an awareness of her vocal chops and emotional range. Recorded on a U47 large-diaphragm condenser tube mic, her voice authentically moved me with both her subtle tenderness and her fierce, canorous spoken word.
The record production achieves an adept retro warmth with a slick studio sheen and there isn’t a note that’s rushed anywhere on the album. With a nod of respect to the musical legends, they also bring in newer EDM and dance hall rhythms and rhymes to the sound. All the instruments have beautiful tones that have been recorded and mixed warmly, and positioned onto the album with lots of darkly eq’ed floating delays. This is a truly tasteful production. It’s not too spiky in the high end or overhyped in the bass, which allows the vocals to shine through, providing room in the midrange where we can all hear the inspired lyrics.
This is a record I can’t wait to hear live. Blue King Brown have come into their own, realising their potential as both songwriters and musos and giving us a collection of songs worthy of playing on repeat for your next long road trip or dance party.
Review written by Sho-Shona Kish (Digging Roots) for Mojo Junction – ‘Artists on Artists’
Buy Born Free on iTunes here
Visit the BKB website here