Describing themselves as a melting pot of frantic energy and multi-culturalism that is so perfectly represented by their home city of London, Mangoseed are an alternative reggae fusion band that brings together different backgrounds, both ethnically and musically, to tie a relentless energy between brooding bass and progressive dub together. With several members hailing from different parts, from Ireland to Jamaica to Trinidad to Australia, Mangoseed aim to transcend the global sounds of Ska, Punk, Jungle and Funk with their latest 11-track release, ‘Dreamers’, a record that pokes fun at the current social zeitgeist.
Led by Nicholai La Barrie, the band establish political commentary as a running theme of their work, with Nicholai’s past projects including a stint as the director of ‘For The Culture – Celebrations Of Blackness’, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s first festival celebrating black talent, in the wake of a year of civil unrest, and so his advocate work continues on ‘Dreamers’, an album where he dares to challenge the status quo.
He says, “Most of our lives are governed by some kind of political decision that we had nothing to do with. It’s really important to say that out loud and ask questions so we feel with and for people and bring them together. There is healing power in music. You can find bliss in everybody jumping, singing and dancing together”, in a press release.
The theme of outspoken frankness is most evident on ‘Empire’, a single that feels disjointed by design with a flickering synth intro transforming into a hypnotic blend of heavy dub and post-grunge guitar sprinklings. The next track – ‘Alternative Facts’ – is the lead single that is more danceable with a New Wave structure that still feels blunt in tone. ‘Lucy’, meanwhile, the fourth track, has a softer opening that pairs a more summer-suited reggae vibe with a memorable refrain of “Lucy gives me everything” as the drums and the bass kicks in. It precedes ‘Like Me Now’ to make up the first half of the ambitious album, a track that introduces harmonic backing vocals and a hazy snare drum beat to the fold as Nicholai questions the listener with the refrain of “Do you think that you like me now?” as the rhythms become more hypnotic than ever before.
Bridging together elements of psychedelic reggae with New-Wave synth-led arrangements in the first half of the record, Mangoseed continue to blend haunting arrangements with youthful lyrics in the second half of the album. It gets off to a melodic start on the title track, which allow you to take a light breather by transitioning between a shimmering synth intro and a symphony of mellow dub beats.
”Jah Jah’ evidently feels more focused in comparison to earlier cuts too with its spiraling mix of guitar strums and fluttering keys. ‘Black King’, however, is the track that feels rooted in classic jazz and dub traditions the most precisely with more romantic vocals. The penultimate track, ‘Water’, features the feel-good refrain of “Your heart turned ice to water” and continues to change the perceptions of Mangoseed being a chilling punk presence that you may have presumed after hearing the first half of the album, as the tone feels peaceful. It still feels connected thematically, however, with reverb-drenched drum beats that echo the darkness of their earlier work, as we lead into the closing stages of the record.
The closer is ‘Still Believe’, a track that connected the dots between the edgy Punk feel of the album’s first half and the lighter feel of the second nicely. It calls back to Khruangbin and Pachyman with the soulful fusion of radiant 70’s Rocksteady influences and the extensive lead guitar instrumentals working together harmoniously.
Interludes also lace the record together as one continuous listen. ‘Prologue’ is a spoken ballad about uplifting yourself that weaves through samples of weather news footage and a chattering Spoken Word intro. ‘Epilogue’, meanwhile, brings the record to a close with a blistering Dark synth-led outro that meets Nicholai’s narration of “So, I realized I was in a dream” with a poetic philosophy about idealizing your goals and seeing the wider picture of a socio-economic issue. Although they feel a bit inessential, they highlight the surprising amount of variety that awaits you in the album.
Overall, ‘Dreamers’ is an enjoyable record that boasts an energetic clash of sharp post-punk influences with heavy dub roots with neatly written, if not truly memorable, lyrics that wish for economic equality between different ethnic minorities and tell a tale of humbly devoting yourself to a cause that requires a community to see through, as opposed to the skill-set of just one individual. Most of the tracks are done in a similar style, with unpredictable shifts in tempo making it seem like a somewhat elusive listen. All in all, it is a record that is unlike anything else.
Words by Jacob Braybrooke
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