Album Review: Maki Roots - Above Extinction & Recover
by Gardy Stein
"Funkedelic high vibrations from inner space to outer space", that's what Maki Roots promise on their social media pages, and that's what their music feels like indeed. Founded in 2017 in the Eastern German city of Leipzig, a city with a lively subculture, the band has quickly caused ripples transcending their local sphere, and a string of live shows established them as an exciting addition to festival line-ups.
With their third studio project Above Extinction & Recover, they now carry their skills to a yet bigger audience, hopefully, as both message and music are definitely worth listening. For those who don't know the band, the opening track Conquer Babylon To Love One Another is a perfect introduction to their warm, analogue sound, a sound achieved by using original instruments and vintage recording equipment. Oved Persiko on drums, Andreas Kosmowicz on bass, Felix Zehdnicker on percussion, Klaus Ruetten on keys, Marcus Hector on trumpet, Torben Friedrich on trombone and Maki on guitar and lead vocals clearly know what they are doing, and the hopeful lyrics add to the whole positive impression. Listening to them attentively makes clear where the album title comes from, too!
"Most people got nothing, and a few people got everything. I mean, it can't be that nowadays still people dying from hunger, while a few super-rich people get richer and richer." The introductory speech of 90% makes clear what the next song is about. In clear words, singer Maki decries the unfair distribution of wealth and power in this world, and his advice against this situation is heard in the very beginning: "Fight that!"
Treating an equally serious subject, Vampire talks about the exploitation of our planet's resources, human greed and global warming. "From weapon we make amplifier!" – sounds like a plan! Not so clear is the meaning behind Break That Chain, which comes on a dynamic riddim filled with a bunch of sonic experiments. As much as Maki's way of singing and pronouncing certain words contributes to the uniqueness of his delivery, it makes it a bit difficult to understand him at times, and one of the (very few) possible improvements of this project would be the addition of the songs' lyrics to a platform like Spotify.
Genre-wise, the band plays finest roots reggae, but different influences are clearly audible as well. Thus, Walla-B provides the funkedelic vibrations promised above, while One seems to take us right into a Romanian orchestra playing at a wedding somewhere in the Balkans. The Awakening starts as if it's the soundtrack of a new Quentin Tarantino movie, but breaks into a reggae skank before this impression sinks in too deep. A certain cinematic feel lingers on, however, in part due to a fine Rhodes solo played by Richard Oeckel, in part also due to the elaborated, reflection-inducing lyrics: "At the end of the day, ask what you've done, did you make this world a better one?" A good question to ask ourselves before going to bed!
Love finds its place on the album as well: the sweet Sugar is a simple, almost completely acoustic piece that takes its appeal from the appreciative words and the bright instrumentation. Inna Bliss, equally minimalistic, adds nature's sounds to celebrate "living naturally with brothers and sisters". Maki's high-pitched voice is at its most expressive in the melodious Honestly, a piece that's flowing into a remarkable Dub, giving each musician the opportunity to show his skills in turn.
The final Pure Fyah, an ode to music in general and the band's creations in particular, surprises with a sudden tempo change halfway through, followed by and even more drastic transition into some deep drum'n'bass. I can so see this track shelling the place in any live performance! Pure fire indeed.
The beauty of this album lies in its immediacy, its down-to-earth attitude and the quality of its musical delivery. Above Extinction & Recover is an album that was created from the pure joy of creating music, of finding an expression for words and melodies bubbling in the artists' inner space, without thinking about sales or streams. A great way to kick off this Reggae Month!
Maki Roots - Above Extinction & Recover
Release date: 02/01/2023
01. Conquer Babylon To Love One Another
02. 90 Percent
06. Break That Chain
07. Honestly & DUB
08. Inna Bliss
09. The Awakening
11. Pure Fyah