Currently really really loving the Mad Instruments riddim (see Elephant Man's "Nah", Beenie Man's "Me Nah Like Yuh Neither", Vybz Kartel's "Real Bad Man). Like Coolie Dance, this is dancehall at its most carnivalesque - I could imagine hearing it at a Rio street festival actually. It's cheesy as hell: glitzy synthetic horns, a burbling bass line and a clattering rhythm halfway between Coolie Dance tribal drums and Diwali handclaps. One of the curious aspects of dancehall's ongoing sponge-like absorption of just about every sonic trick in the book is that dancehall seems to be edging closer to its Carribean and South American counterparts rather than further away. Riddims like Mad Instruments, Coolie Dance, Fiesta and Spanish Fly are informed by the technicolour pangenre adventures dancehall is currently embarking on, while all the time remaining resolutely islander
. They also tend to comprise the most relentlessly upbeat stuff around (although for really
upbeat check out Elephant Man's marvellous Christmas single "Bad Man Holiday", which improbably bites the melody from "Ding Dong Merrily On High" for maximum hilarity). I really enjoy the positive energy that runs through a lot of dancehall at the moment, probably more than the darker stuff. I guess I get so used to the undertone of grimness that underscores so much grime, hip hop etc. that it's a real shock to come across stuff that is so unabashedly uplifting, perhaps more so than anything since the glory days of rave.
The dancehall track I'm particularly in love with at the moment though is Sean Paul's "Head Fi Toe" (on the ultra-prolific Donovan "Don Corleon" Bennet's Trifector riddim). Sean's done a lot of brill tracks this year, frequently coming up with the best version of a riddim (see the should-be-number-one anthemic brilliance of "Close To Me" on Rebirth, or the undertaker intonations of "Feel Alright" on Coolie Dance), and he does it here again, his imploring singjay performance subtly turning the already hectic and frenetic indian vibes of Trifector into something even more delectable: a gloriously swirling and rapturous pop song. This, like a lot of my favourite stuff from this year, sounds too intense
, like it's about to faint from heatstroke. There's a delirious wooziness to the shimmering Indian strings and woodwinds which Sean's intentionally strained-sounding performance matches perfectly, both he and the groove struck down (if not dumb) with mouthwatering lust.