Album Review: The Black Seeds Dust & Dirt

1 June 2012 | 4:03 pm | Benny Doyle

It’s awkward, dark and easy to like.

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Roots reggae royalty in their native New Zealand, The Black Seeds have returned to the fore with their first album of original work since 2008's groove-encrusted Solid Ground. Fans will be happy to know that those elements of flair are still holding true in their new work, but there's an atmospheric edge to Dust And Dirt that gives this album attitude and confidence.

Out Of Light introduces the record with down-tempo, off-key organ driving the track. It's awkward, dark and easy to like. Title tune Dust And Dirt picks up where the opener leaves off, using a more typical reggae groove but mixing it with raindrop piano and strained brass to keep the mood shadowy, the album feeling like it's trapped inside itself. This claustrophobic vibe doesn't let up for the duration – not that it's a bad thing. Loose Cartilage is a musical contradiction; banging drums and loose riffing kick off the track, before ivories tinker and the song flips back on itself – it doesn't know whether to be Air, The Doors or The Clash. Later in the album, meanwhile, the horns really find their volume, and on tracks like Love Me Now and Cracks In Our Crown they provide a soulful tenderness that blends with the sometimes wistful, always provoking lyrics of vocalist Barnaby Weir to enhance the emotion further.

The Black Seeds have constantly positioned themselves one step away from their contemporaries, and now when more bands are turning to tropical, lush sounds, the Kiwis have created further distance from the pack with an album that seems to echo through the speakers from a land far more concerned.