Raging Fyah Burn Down Babylon

by delarue

One of Jamaican roots reggae band Raging Fyah‘s distinguishing characteristics is that they’re a lot more musically interesting than their brethren in two-chord vamps. Listening to the group’s latest tracks from Judgement Day & Destiny – streaming at Spotify – immediately brings to mind longtime Jamdown roots vets Israel Vibration. Raging Fyah don’t have that group’s eendearingly wobbly vocal harmonies, but they’ve got the tunes and the musicianship. And they also have good lyrics: some of the songs here are your typical good-vibes anthems, but true to their name, there’s some political fire as well. In an era where the claim of staying true to the spirit of classic roots reggae almost always turns out to be an empty cliche, these guys deliver. They’re playing on November 24 at around 10 at Milk River, 960 Atlantic Ave (Grand/Willoughby) in Ft. Greene; take the C to Clinton-Washington. Cover is $20.

Irie Vibe, the sunny first cut, kicks off with keyboardist Demar Gayle’s wavery portanento string synth over guitarist Courtland White’s wry, lowdown wah-wah guitar and rises from there. Later on, Gayle has fun with classical riffage and then impersonating a vibraphone. The title track is sort of a mashup of early Third World and Kaya-era Marley: White goes for biting, sustained phrases over Gayle’s icy Wya Lindo-style organ. Likewise, First Love goes back for a deep hit of sophisticated, soul-jazz flavored roofs smoke. And Behold really gets the band firing on all cylinders right out of the chute, drummer Anthony Watson spinning and spiraling over White’s Memphis-tinged, Chinna Smith-style lines, frontman Kumar Bent’s low-key delivery matching the spiritually-inspired lyrics.

I and I breaks out of the mold of doctrinaire Africanist speechifying with some trippy dub touches and what sounds like an electrified toy piano. Music Isn’t Biased cynically revisits a handful of Babylon system nursery rhymes; it’s got an aphoristic edge that looks back to Bob Marley without ripping him off. One of the catchiest and most anthemic numbers here is Fight: “Don’t you be a fish to the fisherman,” Bent warns.over a watery, very 80s roots backdrop.

Nah Look Back further bolsters the argument that White might be the best reggae guitarist working right now: lots of taste and texture in this guy’s spare, lingering riffs. “Mankind don’t know the power they have,” Bent laments on the wickedly catchy track after that, Gayle orchestrating it with pulsing synth brass and rippling gospel organ. The final cut here is the piano-driven, aptly triumphant Jah Glory. In an era when most Jamaican reggae has been digitized to death, this band is a breath of fresh air straight off Montego Bay.