Documentary Evidence


Offbeat Rhapsody

MikkiM 'Offbeat Rhapsody' CD artwork

album // Offbeat Rhapsody

big bong records | cd/dl bgbg001 | 2012 | track listing

Prague-based DJ, producer and musician MikkiM released Offbeat Rhapsody on Big Bong Records in 2012. The album was recognised in the Czech Reublic's prestigious equivalent of the Grammys, picking up the first prize Andel for the best reggae / ska album released last year. Offbeat Rhapsody consists of fifteen tracks incorporating those reggae and ska styles but also draws upon dub, dubstep, hip-hop, house and many other loosely-connected styles in what should be, on the strength of that description, a somewhat patchy affair but it's anything but.

One of the reasons Offbeat Rhapsody works is because of the musicians and vocalists who appear on the album. Tracks were laid down in MikkiM's Prague bass using a range of local Czech musicians, predominantly brought in the studio for their horn work. That brass contribution is delivered with a jazzy fluidity, fusing reggae authenticity with a jazz sensibility. The best example of that fusion is on the breezy 'Around The Walls', which references the start-stop rhythms of dubstep with the classic reggae staples of smooth molasses bass, tentative organ grooves and mellow, uplifting vocals that occasionally have the tremolo quality of, say Horace Andy, complete with a chorus of children to give this a summery pop sensibility. Threading through all of that is a saxophone line from Matcuš Kobylcka that sounds like it was lifted straight from a chilled Dave Brubeck session. That same sense of jazz-reggae fusion - really not as audacious as it sounds; somewhere I have a King Tubby dub that makes heavy reference to Brubeck's 'Take Five' - comes through on the rolling drum and bass of 'After All', where mellow sax and plucked string sounds seem to suggest this type of combination could be a sort of pavement cafe background music for a hyperactive generation juked on super-strong caffeine and controlled over-the-counter amphetamines.

If the idea of someone based in Eastern Europe trying to make a reggae hybrid album sounds fanciful, Offbeat Rhapsody benefits from a trip that MikkiM took to Kingston in 2010. That excursion involved scouting for local talent to add vocals to the tracks - singers such as Zareb, Squeechie and Macka P - anchoring these songs to the home of reggae and dub and instantly defusing any cynicism about the potential quality of the songs here. Aside from references to staples like struggling, lack of funds and herbs, the lyrical vibe here from the Kingston contingent is uniformly uplifting. Opener 'Unity' is a powerfully euphoric track fusing solid beats and rapturous call-to-arms vocals from Hornsman Coyote ('Rise up international soldier!'), while the tender 'Can't Stop Us From Trying' has a beautifully affirming tone that leaves you feeling like you can more or less take any hardship that's thrown your way. Definitely one to listen to on a grim, cold ride to work.

Renegade Soundwave's Gary Asquith appears on Offbeat Rhapsody, following an appearance on MikkiM's earlier Crossroads album, which was named after his Prague club. 'Air Hostess' was a rejected Renegade Soundwave track from the Soundclash era and is one of Asquith's finest moments, an upbeat house track with very suggestive lyrics about said hostess's 747s and DC10s in a way that perhaps doesn't mean an inventory of planes back in the hangar. 'Heaven Be Upon Us' is a chilled-out slow-mo dub-pop track with mournful, mature reflective lyrics, a whiff of regret coming through in Asquith's delivery, revealing a sensitive side not often to be heard elsewhere in his back catalogue. 'Probably A Robbery' is the RSW pop crossover classic recast as a heavy-duty dubstep bass monster while maintaining its gleeful crime-spree vocal.

Elsewhere on Offbeat Rhapsody, MikkiM pays tribute to The Clash, a band that did more than most punk units to unify their music with dub and reggae. 'Guns Of Kingston' is a thunderous, haunted cover of 'Guns Of Brixton' from London Calling, with Paul Simonon's vocal lifted and dropped into gang-ravaged Kingston with a tempo ranging from languid to frantic; 'Magnificent Cash', the second of the Clash tributes, takes a dub-tastic Simonon bassline and fuses it with vocals from Pladdy. MikkiM pulls off a similar trick on 'Smells Like Sleng Teng', wherein an inimitable sleng teng rhythm gets swept up into a maelstrom of dancefloor-friendly beats and squeaky synths.

Offbeat Rhapsody was released again as a download containing extra dub mixes. A promo video for the reworked 'Probably A Robbery' can also be found below.

The album can be purchased here as CD or as a download here.

Thanks to Gary and MikkiM.

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1. Unity
2. One Human Down
3. Downtown Advice
4. Guns Of Kingston
5. Air Hostess
6. Rudeboy
7. Magnificent Cash
8. Around The Walls
9. Probably A Robbery
10. Freelancer
11. Smells Like Sleng Teng
12. After All
13. Can't Stop Us From Trying
14. Money
15. Heaven Be Upon Us

(c) 2013 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence