Mikey General: Hold Strong 7″ Vinyl Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
Hold Strong, released via Dubquake Records, is an engaging and thought-provoking affair. It’s a strongly-constructed track – with the final mix and master giving a classic, vinyl feel to the proceedings. This is helped along by the excellent B-side ‘Strong Dub’, where O.B.F gives a delicious take on the main track – stark, ambient, and very eerie. So, what of the headline event on side A?
It’s frantic opening, with horns running semiquaver riffs, sets an ominous tone – before the Reggae vibes properly set in. Here, many authentic musical devices are used. The rhythm section is dominant. Keys run a choppy and incessant bubble rhythm, rarely deviating from their staccato, punchy chords. The bass runs a drop-beat rhythm, which, however, avoids a one drop – instead passing beat three of most bars. It’s low down its register, running a melodic line as opposed to broken chords. It has been engineered to feel more like an 808 than an electric bass – which only adds to the brooding, unsettling nature of the track.
Then, drums avoid a traditional one drop – because the kick sounds like it hits every beat. However, the snare and hi-hats do conform – with the former accenting the two and four, and the latter filling the spaces in between. There’s also a guitar skanking in the background, driving the keys’ stuttering rhythm forward. Of note with the engineering is that the bass and drums have been brought to the fore, while the keys and guitar play an almost secondary role. This gives Hold Strong real depth, and an almost Dub feel.
Additional instrumentation abounds aplenty. The horns are a dominant feature throughout. Sounding somewhat like synth ones, they run an incessant countermelody to General’s main call, which focuses on dropping beat three in time with the bass. It’s an interesting arrangement, as it moves the traditional one drop from the first beat of the bar – creating an intake of breath mid-way through. Throughout, there’s also some decent use of synths and samples – which, when coupled with the breaks where the instrumentation is stripped-back, and the dominance of the bass and drums, bring some pleasing Dub flavours to Hold Strong. And, the abrupt ending, with all the music just cutting out, works well as a conclusion.
General is, of course, strong across the track. He works mostly in the upper end of his vocal register, weaving around some pleasing melodies and rhythms across the verses, while creating a memorable riff on the choruses. His nasal tone brings urgency and poise to Hold Strong, as does his use of heavily clipped notes in places – which he briefly contrasts with some more legato phrasing. The MTR of his voice, both in the harmonisation and the call and response additions, is well executed. Lyrically, he’s created a powerful narrative about how, in the face of Babylon’s wickedness, we need to ‘hold strong’, solid in the faith that things will improve, and the system will fail. This combined with the minor key of the music, creates a haunting yet persuasive track.
Overall, Hold Strong is an endearing piece of work from Dubquake and all involved. Musically interesting, vocally deft, and lyrically powerful – once again, General has shown why he’s such a talent.
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Mikey General Hold Strong Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio PR Services (24th May 2023).