Zvuloon Dub System- Freedom Time
Here I sit, another of England’s grey and rainy days hiding behind a closed curtain, trying to review a reggae album. If you think this album’s getting an easy ride, it’s not. It’s the only thing getting me over post bank holiday blues and considering I’m hardly listening to it in it’s intended environment, it’s doing a damn good job of it. The album I speak of is the soulful, dubby debut from Tel Aviv’s Zvuloon Dub System that recently dropped into my inbox all the way from Israel, the motherland of this 8 piece contemporary reggae band who take their name from one of the 12 tribes of the country.
An 11 track offering, it takes on the hard task of bringing reggae to a contemporary stage, a paradox of soul and authenticity versus not only modern technology but also style. However, it toes this fine line carefully with crisp recordings in the bands studio, echoing vocals and reverberating drums adding that extra punch to the sound. They’ve crafted their own particular sound very finely, something many reggae outfits seem keen to establish, but with such eclectic influences from Ethiopian Jazz through US Soul, perhaps it’s too refined in places to truly showcase this. It creates an incredibly nice atmosphere and vibe throughout, an album you can really sit down and sink into, but this comes at the slight cost of a fairly slim palette of sounds.
That being said, those sounds aren’t half pleasing to the ear. As soon as the bongo roll and horns of the intro track, Lion of Judah, drop into lead singer Gili Yalo’s ode to the symbol of the Isralite tribe of Judah weaving in and out of plucked guitars it instantly becomes apparent that this is an album you can really put your feet up to. Yalo sitting back towards the end of the track to let the incredible trumpets of Inon Peretz, keyboard melodies of Lior Romano and shuffling percussion of Asaf Smilan breathe and even do some of the talking also sets the tone for an album that’s not afraid to take its time. These instrumental sections feature heavily throughout, such as from the vibey reggae infused version of Jimmy Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile through the dubby African Drums and the smooth guitar melodies of All Over the World. They create a really nice atmosphere of relaxation and only make you pay attention more and add impact once the sail back in, on Go Down Moses, for example, where they feature much more prominently, with heavy reverbs giving them a lot of presence and a slightly psychedelic sound.
The penultimate track, No One But You, is one of my personal favourites due to more original vocal concepts that stray away from the reggae trap of babylon and sensimelia for an inspiring, peace infused love song. It’s finished off perfectly with incredible saxophones and a big snare drum to nod your head and zone out to as the drums slowly fade out. It’s been a featureless affair so far, relying on the smooth, soulful tones of lead singer Gili Yalo alone, but the final track, Nah Give Up, brings Jamaica’s Ranking Joe in to provide more lively vocals for a more up beat ending to proceedings where a rumbling, dubby bass line sits under more incredible guitars. It’s a nice ending that brings things up a tempo without straying from the album’s sound, something furthered with a smooth instrumental sound to fade out.
Despite the grey skies, it’s an album that really impressed me and got my spirits up to that reggae high. While slightly lacking in variety throughout, Gili Yalo’s vocals have enough presence, even with their periods of absence that for me are a touch of class, to retain interest throughout and the beats are incredibly intricate and well crafted. It strikes a nice balance of modern soul that will allow it to appeal to a range of crowds and make it perfect for summertime barbecues. Go pick it up in either digital format (€7) or CD (€9) over at their Bandcamp.