Derajah Babylon A Quake Review

Derajah – Babylon A Quake – Review

Derajah: Babylon A Quake 7″ Vinyl Review by Mr Topple for

Inna De Yard alumni Derajah has had a long but carefully trod career – from his early beginnings working with the legendary, late Sugar Minott to his 2022 collaboration with the 32 Golden Souls. After his recent hit Jah Will Mek A Way, Pauzeradio is proud to stock another 2023 cut from this consummate artist.

Babylon A Quake, released and produced via Fruits Records, is a veritable Roots anthem for our times, across a 7” vinyl. The 18th Parallel, the Swiss label’s band who have an impressive roster of musicians, composed the track – which is the lead single off their forthcoming, October-slated album with Derajah. Mixing by Westfinga and the mastering by Sam John are tour de forces of precision engineering – creating a sound that both evokes classic Roots but also feels contemporary. However, the track is also solid gold.

It is a rhythm section-driven track, led by Quentin Stern’s imposing bass across a one drop rhythm that on the first and third bars in its majority sequence also misses the fourth – creating a brooding, double intake of breath. It has rich and resonant tone whose arrangement works around a melody, as opposed to arpeggio chords. Then, Mathias Liengme’s keys complement this with an unrelenting bubble rhythm played in their mid-register. Interestingly, they rarely deviate from this – except for high, flourishing riffs further up, then lower down their register. However, during a break two-thirds of the way through they move way high up, creating ethereal interest.

The drums are from Antonin Chatelain. What’s curious (and nods to the more modern elements of Babylon A Quake’s arrangement) is that they avoid a standard one drop, with the kick hitting the one and three, while the snare takes on the two and four, and hi-hats fill the spaces in between. Additional percussion from Liengme includes some slightly dampened but still shimmering chimes (or maybe bells) and good use of a whistle. Léo Marin’s guitar then finished the rhythm section off – strutting a skank which cements the Roots vibes perfectly.

Then, additional instrumentation comes in the form of Liengme’s organ, which makes fleeting appearances running interesting riffs with light touches of vibrato. The horn section is well executed, too – with the trumpet from Alexandre Schneiter, tenor sax from Michael Pelligrini, and trombone from Anthony Dietrich Buclin. They perform almost call and response duties to Derajah’s main vocal – often made up of swaying, dotted notation and with some rich harmonisation. They’re regal, pointed, and serve the track well.

Across Babylon A Quake, there are lovely inflections of Dub engineering, with good use of reverb providing additional rhythmic and sonic interest.

It should be noted that Stern, Marin, and Schneiter also perform lush backing vocals which are heavily harmonised and delicately complement Derajah’s main vocal – which itself is gorgeous.

Here, he works well around his mid-tenor range – moving up into an attractive and delicate falsetto at times. There’s a pointed, forthright tone to his performance throughout, with a clear, crisp tone not distracted by excessive vibrato nor rhythmic and melodic riffs and runs, which would be unnecessary given the stark nature of the track. Instead, Derajah gives us more complex yet solemn rhythms – with some occasional but well place improvisation. His chorus is memorable and well-executed, the verses interesting, and across the track he shows his vocal dexterity.

Lyrically, Babylon A Quake is a well-timed narrative around the system’s toxic influence over us all, coupled with its dangerous and evil agenda. As Fruits Records said in its release preamble:

“‘Babylon A Quake’ stands as a powerful anthem, carrying a profound message of social consciousness and resistance against oppressive forces… of struggle and resilience…”

Side B has a beautifully constructed Dub version from The 18th Parallel. Stripped-away is Derajah’s vocal, leaving the horns and keys to take centre stage. But this is no ordinary Dub, with some sumptuous and inventive engineering across what remains of the lead vocal – where it sways from left to right input, comes in and out across decay suddenly, and is generally perfectly placed. The breaks are extremely good: harsh, sudden, and evocative – with instrumentation flowing in and out, with increasing and decreasing dB to give a disconcerting vibe. It’s a superb reimagining of the original and is elevated way above standard Dub.

Overall, Babylon A Quake is an inspired, moving, and thought-provoking piece of work. Musically deft with keen attention to detail – yet with an unfussy classiness that evokes the golden age of Roots – Derajah’s vocal is also superb, and the narrative strong and pertinent. Stirling works from all involved.

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Derajah Babylon A Quake Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (1st July 2023).

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