Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno – 1000 Watts (Caroline)

First published on 13thfloor.co.nz

‘Quantic’ is the recording nom de plume UK born globe trotter Will Holland, whose signature sound is rooted squarely in the golden age of the Big Band era.

His previous release, The Western Transient, traversed Coltrane’s smooth jazz with elements from the 1950’s Be Bop band leaders and fair smatterings of Salsa and Mambo.

This time, for his third album, he’s mining early dub, ska and reggae with the intention of creating a live ‘sound system feel.”  True that.  But somehow the vibe just doesn’t wash.  Maybe we’re all a little jaded from the countless mining of Jamaican studio archives.  Or maybe it’s just not possible to say something new without it all sounding like some cheap revivalist show.

For Holland the intention was certainly genuine.  He rounds up a keen and trustworthy list of contributors – U-Roy, long-time collaborator Alice Russell, reggae singers Hollie Cook and Christopher Ellis; the late, great keyboard maestro Ikey Owens (Run The Jewels, The Mars Volta, Jack White); and legendary Jamaican drummer Santa Davis {Bob Marley, The Aggravators).

Recorded directly to tape, the model was to make an ‘authentic’ record but somehow it just seems to lack the flame to really burn.  Spring Tank Fire shows promise with a heavy dub base and groove, skanking horns and vintage dancehall ‘riddims’.  Although I seem to have heard this somewhere else.  The Upsetters or Augustus Pablo perhaps?  It’s a pretty repetitive tune, wallpaper for a gunja café in downtown Amsterdam.

There’s a bit more inspiration in A Life Worth Living featuring UK soul mistress Alice Russell and old skool veteran Jamaican MC Ewart Beckford (aka U-Roy) who provide some sweet vocals over a pretty pedestrian track.

Homeward Bound and Ikey’s Vibe just seem to bleed into each other, providing yet more paste for the wallpaper.  On the latter you get just a taste of the late, great Owen’s ecclesiastical keyboard style as it’s merged into the gumbo of the dub on the tune.  But like a sip at a Food Show it’s not enough to really satiate.  Sadly, the Grammy award winner passed away in 2014 whilst touring with Jack White under somewhat mysterious circumstances.  A shame indeed.

Hollie Cook is another reggae singer who puts in an appearance, on the ska influenced Shuffle Them Shoes. This time it’s a pretty good number, catchy and definitely danceable, ruined, alas, by Cook’s voice which is just too squeaky high for it.  She struggles to convincingly sell it and it all feels like a high school band performance.  A bit of a wasted opportunity.  As is Dusk. another slice of monotony, and Night Shade, which is just plain boring.

Christopher Ellis should have been the perfect Jimmy Cliff moment at the end of the disc, on All I Do Is Think About You.  Sure it’s a sweet love song, but about as unconvincing a Billy Ocean mega hit, all schmaltz and mush.  Best avoided, except maybe at weddings.

Chambacú is probably the only outstanding moment, something of a killer cumbia cover brought home by Colombian Nidia Góngora, who’s worked with Quantic in the past, on more folk-oriented projects in the past.  This time, it’s a real party tune and good to dance to.

The Quantic team have a crack at ska, Skatalites style.  But again, sorry.  Having seen the real thing, Striding on The Grand is just a limp hop, and Macondo is more of the bland.  Sure the funk’s in the horn section and the nifty beeps and bobs show us the ‘arkology’ tools but you have to ask: so what?  In fact if I was to sum this all up, I’d it’s a good effort at authentic without the credibility of being real.  Or put another way, Flowering Inferno will be great to put on at your next dinner party.  But if you want to show off your hi-fi system then reach for one of those Studio One or Trojan complications – on vinyl, of course.

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