It’s a mighty reaping for the East Coast reggae collective 10 Ft. Ganja Plant on their latest effort, Skycatcher, issued on New York’s defiantly independent ROIR Records. An offshoot from American reggae statesmen John Brown’s Body, there’s an Anglophilia that’s steeped in these recordings, giving them the feel that they just missed the cut to appear on an edition of Rebirth of Cool, the wildly influential compilation series that featured acid jazz, trip hop, early drum ’n’ bass and other experimental pop music coming principally from the UK. But the group has taken this music and upended it, ingesting many of the motifs and techniques that define electronic music and performing them on live instruments. The results are eerie, ethereal and, at times, cinematic soundscapes that recall Ry Cooder.
There are also heavy doses of reggae grand alchemist Lee “Scratch” Perry’s sensibilities injected into the recordings: Nate Silas Richardson’s falsetto on “State of Man” evokes Junior Murvin’s Lee Perry-directed Police and Thieves album, Jay Champany’s nasal delivery on the urgent “Hypocrites In Town” recalls Perry’s own vocal styling, and the timbre and tempo of album closer “Sing and Dance” wafts like The Heptones’ “I Shall be Released” from their Upsetter-helmed Party Time album.
Elsewhere, the album’s insistent yet spacious rhythms kindle the powerful, unique yet shamefully underappreciated work of artist and producer Vivian “Yabby You” Jackson.
Pastoral and potent, Skycatcher is a journey that, further in the words of Lee Perry, is full of history, mystery and prophesy.