At worst, reggae/dancehall can be overly male dominated, with “slack” repetitive soundscapes laced with homophobia and similar to some macho sides of rap. At best, today’s dub-filled dancehall is a world of experimentation and openness. Germany’s Jahtari label attests to upholding the foundations of this genre through their retro-futurist take in which they simply call “digital laptop reggae”. According to the label the fundamental rules of dub reggae are strictly adhered to, and through nostalgic eyes that look back to the first digital soundsystems, they create their own brand of reggae full of 8-bit and sci-fi samples, as well as riddims from past to present.
Ode 2 A Carrot is an album which has finally put label chief Disrupt alongside Glaswegian vocalist and Jahtari artist Soom T long enough to hear exactly what they can do on an LP. It comes after the short and sweet Dirty Money EP and is firmly rooted within the early dancehall spirit of the famous Unity soundsystem. The heavy sounding cuts within the 15 tracks cross contain a mixture of old and new Jahtari workings and Scottish sound system Mungos Hi Fi’s deep instrumentals. Many tracks feature old riddims which have been used before, for example ‘Boom Shiva’ uses the riddim from Disrupt’s ‘Citadel Station’, and ‘I Need Weed’ from 2008’s ‘True Creators’.
But what stands out amongst the gridded backdrop is Soom T’s voice. Over the last 10 or so years she has collaborated with various different artists that range from hip hop to electronica (The Orb, T. Raumschmiere and King Creosote), but on this moment this is where she is most settled and strongest, with a tongue-in-cheek celebration of nearly every herbalist cliché in the book. Although her voice can demonstrate the more antagonistic aspects of MCing, such as on ‘Puff That Weed’, but is the more quieter and soulful tracks such as ‘Boom Shiva’ and ‘I Need Weed’ that she really excels.
Unsurprisingly, this digidub album is as heavy on your bassbins as it is in its references to smoking weed. The overall sound is much more in tune with Disrupt’s more recent catalogue of cleaner sounding laptop reggae, with thick booming beats and heavy chord stabs being littered with echo and bit-crushed synths. At times it is sounds deceivingly less than the cold and electronic ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ and more of the traditional warmth you get from a good ‘ol reggae LP.