New Sounds in Reggae and Dub From Extra Classic
Los Angeles-based Extra Classic’s album Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like a Laser Beam is an imaginative update on classic roots reggae with purist sonics and an edgy soul/rock vibe. Josh Adams’ drums are more straight-up rock than reggae, but the music still swings and sways, and keyboardist Adrienne Verhoeven’s shoegazy vocals make a great match with the deliciously analog-sounding, reverb-toned Lee “Scratch” Perry-influenced production. Alex deLanda’s tasteful, bluesy Chinna Smith-style lead guitar, propulsive bass and a gently trippy cascade of oldschool dub effects round out the mix.
The first track is Congo Rebel. It’s got distorted guitar and busy drums that go prowling around. Metal Tiger blends a catchy reggae bass lick with understated, smart piano and bluesrock lead guitar. With a nice, creepy organ intro, You Can’t Bring Me Down sounds like a classic reggae-pop hit from the early 70s, a vibe echoed on the absolutely gorgeous, swirling, organ-driven Creation. Electric Stars has the same kind of dubwise vein the Clash mined on Sandinista – you can imagine the crew gathered around the mixing board, its lights twinkling through the haze of ganja smoke. It comes together with a warmly atmospheric vibe before the bass picks it up with an unexpectedly funky edge.
Verhoeven gets a chance to really cut loose on Give Them the Same, her big soul crescendos alternating with more of those tersely bluesy guitar leads. The aptly titled Demon Hit swirls around a catchy bass riff, while Lesser Pan has noir trombone and absolutely luscious layers of sound. The album ends with a couple of straight-up soul songs: Angel Eyes, with its pretty two-chord melody and stripped-down production (just bass, guitar and vocals) and Give Me Your Love, a wickedly catchy, soaring number that wouldn’t be out of place in the One and Nines catalog. Whether your taste in reggae leans toward greats like Burning Spear or Jah Bob, or current-day bands like John Brown’s Body or iLamawana, Extra Classic are worth checking out. As a nice plus, the album is available on vinyl – where the richness of the sonics really rings out – as well as the usual digital formats.