Addis Pablo - In My Fathers House
by Angus Taylor
“In my father’s house there are many mansions” is a biblical verse from the book of John that is rife with potential meanings. It is a significant saying in the culture of Rastafari and has been quoted in notable reggae songs by Bunny Wailer and Prince Far I. As the title of the debut album by Addis Swaby, son of Horace Swaby, it has an additional meaning: the continuation of a family legacy that has captivated ears around the world.
Fathers and sons in popular music are no longer novel or radical. The likes of Damian Marley and Vieux Farka Toure have overturned the prejudice that a child cannot take up the mantel of a legendary parent. But the release of a set of melodica instrumentals played by the offspring of the late great Augustus Pablo is still an event that will cause ripples throughout the reggae community and beyond.
Addis Pablo has spent time in the company of his dad’s contemporaries such as Earl Chinna Smith while working busily with Ras Jammy as futuristic Jamaican production unit Suns of Dub. In My Father’s House is instead released by respected Dutch label JahSolidRock and produced by Marc Baronner who has helmed many of their releases. Over the muscular, workmanlike rhythms of Austria’s House of Riddim band – plus two from Ziggi Recado keyboardist Rekesh Dukaloo - Addis blows through the toy instrument popularised by his predecessor (now frequently abused by Damon Albarn and repeated ad infinitum without innovation by the UK dub scene).
Addis’ melodica playing is like his father’s in that he has the ability to make very simple choices sound inspired. This is also in part thanks to the precise balance of processing reverb used by Baronner that recalls Augustus’ own productions. House of Riddim’s clean, no frills precision makes them a suitably unshowy canvas for Pablo’s understated work - with none of the “look at me, I’m on stage” flourishes of some of the rootsier European bands.
Not content with anointing the melodica in dub, Augustus Pablo consolidated the use of powerful minor key backings in roots reggae (taking his cue from Don Drummond who in turn was influenced by film soundtracks to create an oriental vibe). Yet In My Father’s House starts with peaceful major key meditations before unleashing darker moods, underpinned by folding basslines and chugging muted fretwork. The two RD Music contributions, His Majesty and One Love, One Heart, One Family, have a slightly different flavour, being led by acoustic guitar, but still fit with the rest. As with previous JahSolidRock projects there is an early 80s English feel to proceedings that sat so well with their last outing with Aswad’s Brinsley Forde. The interplay of bass and trombone in the jazzy breakdown of Inna De Gideon invokes Dennis Bovell and LKJ.
JahSolidRock are also committed revivalists of the “showcase album” where dub follows vocal – a phenomenon like juggling and versioning probably first born out of practical necessity that gave Jamaican music something unique. But here, when the A side is instrumental, they have the fresh idea of using dubs of vocals on the flip – showcasing fittingly rootical and mystic voices of Earl Sixteen, Chezidek, Prince Alla, Sylford Walker and the deejay Jah Exile.
This album doesn’t go all the way in trying to appeal to 1970s roots sticklers. Nor does it try to radically update the Pablo sound as per Suns of Dub. Writing about it with objectivity is a challenge due to it bearing so much weight of expectation. People are going to be hailing it as genius and others will be measuring it against the canon of Augustus in ways it cannot stand.
Taken for what it is, free of backstory, these are 17 very enjoyable tracks of melodica atop tightly played rhythms, without the heavy techno influence of UK dub. In the context of hearing a young man enter his father’s house this is considerably more.
Addis Pablo - In My Fathers House
DIGITAL RELEASE [JahSolidRock]
Release date: 02/25/2014
01. Addis Pablo - Road to Addis
02. Earl Sixteen - Evolution
03. Addis Pablo feat. Earl Sixteen - Evolutionary Rockers
04. Addis Pablo - In a Di Gideon
05. Addis Pablo feat. Sylford Walker - Gideon Rockers
06. Addis Pablo - His Majesty
07. Prince Alla - Giving Thanks
08. Addis Pablo feat. Prince Alla - Rockers Trodding Jah Road
09. Addis Pablo - Walls of Jericho
10. Addis Pablo feat. Jah Exile - To the Chief Musicians
11. Addis Pablo - Wareika Mystic
12. Chezidek - Thanks and Praise
13. Addis Pablo feat.Chezidek - Rockers International Version
14. Addis Pablo - One Love, One Heart, One Family
15. Addis Pablo - Rockers Version
16. Addis Pablo - In My Father's House
17. Addis Pablo - My Father Version