High Smile HiFi 7”s feat. Speng Bond, Koa Aloy & S’Kaya

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With three heavy-hitting conscious new 7”s – featuring vocals from Speng Bond, Koa Aloy, and S’Kaya – simultaneously released on their own Top Smile Records, Swiss digital enthusiasts High Smile HiFi have once again crafted some tough riddims which pair nicely with their global cohort of singers.

These releases (#s 12-14) feature bubbling bass lines and stabbing skanks aplenty, all straight out of the mid-1980s in aesthetic and style.

On “Babylon,” veteran UK deejay Speng Bond chats quickly and relentlessly, calling down dread and fire upon the wicked in Babylon to present a literal lyrical apocalypse atop a bass-led weighty riddim. With lyrics aplenty on all sides, each hook brings a bit of a croon into the mix, ‘Babylon your Queendom is falling…,’ but it’s the final Biblical dissection that cuts the deepest into the woes of our contemporary culture.

Personally I’m hoping this is an attack on Corinthians I for its negative views towards effeminate men, old drunkards, and gamblers, but given the influence of Judeo-Christianity on Rastafarianism and the back-to-Africa movement, that might be an optimistic misinterpretation on my part. Regardless, this is a dancehall-ready slice of digitalia with a version ripe and ready for those live sound system vibes.

“Tell Dem Again” features Hawaiian singer Koa Aloy making his debut on wax, after a free riddim offering by High Smile HiFi on Soundcloud led to the collaboration. Words of wisdom always bear repeating (this first appeared on the 2016 digital full-length Three the High Way, Vol. 1), so Aloy’s concerns about societal separation, coupled with a call for peaceful collaboration, will hopefully find wider appreciation now that they are out on wax.

Anti-war, anti-sufferation, and anti-negativity, “Tell Dem Again” is arguably a bit more down in the vibes than Speng Bond’s cut, but for good reason: this is a nuanced riddim where the minor tones create a sense of desperation, perfectly matched by the confident work on the mic.

Currently based out of Bangkok, French singer S’Kaya wraps up this truth-laden trilogy with the most earnest track of all, “Hardworker,” which examines the economic realities of being a reggae singer. The chorus balances dream with reality: ‘I would love to live from the reggae music, without a boss above me; but fi pay my rent it could be problematic, that’s why me work for him.’

A fine and relatable theme for any artist – one that doesn’t shy away from that oft-avoided truth of the reggae scene: the day job – this is significantly more poignant coming from a singer with over a dozen vinyl releases as well as a full-length out on the well-regarded Conscious Sounds label. The riddim arrives on a crunchy synth line, while each verse is buoyed by the combined force of bouncy bass and well-timed key work, all shifting subtly for the chorus.

It’s safe to say that the High Smile crew have another successful set of sevens here, as all three tunes should please selectors and listeners alike. Retro in all the right ways, yet relevant and creative both lyrically and rhythmically, the only challenge here is choosing which track to play first. Out now via Reggae Fever.

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