Florian Fleischmann and Axel Hirn, who form the Berlin-based duo Noiseshaper, turn in a deft and playful collection of self-produced dance singles that fold Reggae/Dancehall/Dub vocals and influences into conventional Electronica sensibilities. This CD, which has Adrian Sherwood on dubs and overdubs, and the legion of guest singers and toasters also include Beans & Hawkman, G. Rizo, Juggla, Jackie Deane, Vido Jelashe I, Wayne Martin, MC Shureshock and Jahcoustix. Accordingly the CD has a pleasing balance of numbers, songs of many different tempos, which are hard-hitting or gentle as called for, and uniformly well-produced.
The featured themes of the disc include both those of "conscious" roots Reggae and the much-heralded violence certain parts of Jamaica are known for (referenced in the very first two tracks, notably). The second of these, "Me Done" (featuring Ari Up of the Slits as the featured toastmaster), is armed with Chemical Brothers-style dance flavor -- you can hear the same grinding, groovy bass line that propels the Chems' "Leave Home" from Exit Planet Dust. Curiously, in track 4, pumping bedroom piece "Love to the Rhythm," the refrain is clearly saying "Sla-a-a-ave to the rid-dim..." -- not even the plantation is forsaken on this cruise. "All A Dem A Do," track 10, opens with lovely guitar arpeggios, and evolves into and out of a kicking drum line that would make Groove Armada proud. Track 13, the TVS remix of "Walls of Silence," recalls some of the sample-y weirdness of Sherwood's earlier associations with Tackhead and African Headcharge, but with less of the spontaneity and more of an eye for the dance market itself.
To the orthodox Reggae fan, it may sound as though Fleischmann and Hirn are taking some liberties with Reggae music's various genres and sub-genres, but from here it seems to do more good than harm. Although by now this compilation of Noiseshaper's singles can't hope to sound anything close to groundbreaking, it has the function of exposing one to a surprisingly broad range of Reggae styles -- and simply shoving a much-needed Reggae/Electronica stone into its proper corner of the Dance temple.