Album Review: Light the Horizon by Bedouin Soundclash
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
You can count original and consistently interesting American reggae bands on one hand, and Bedouin Soundclash have long been one of them. But one of the things that set the trio apart from the pack was that it has always been pretty clear that reggae is a means, not an end, for leader and songwriter Jay Malinowski, who has always used reggae and rocksteady patterns as a way of getting a unique pop music vision across; for that reason, it was inevitable that as his skills matured he was going to move away from the strictures of reggae as a musical style. That maturity is fully in evidence on Light the Horizon, and the songs have indeed spread out into new stylistic territory: "Brutal Hearts" draws on 1950s-style lounge pop (and explicitly evokes "Fever"), while "Elongo" is blissfully atmospheric alt-pop with strings and "Mountain Top" is straightforward jangle rock whose only reggae referent is in the quietly frenetic rim-shot drum patterns during the verse.
Though question marks may still linger over the authenticity of a reggae band hailing from Toronto, it’s difficult to impugn the respect with which Bedouin Soundclash has treated the genre. In each of their soulful long-players, the group has embraced reggae’s cultural and stylistic heritage with astonishing degrees of aplomb. In particular, and this rings especially true for Light the Horizon, it’s as though the band has used reggae as a blueprint with which to explore a host of other styles: “Mountain Top” sports a vintage punk-rock refrain, “May You Be the Road” is a gorgeous low-tempo folksong, while “Follow the Sun” provides the album with a psychedelic curtain call.
The last few years have been both cruel and kind to Bedouin Soundclash. The reggae/world-music trio saw some incredible chart successes in their home country of Canada and in the U.K. with 2007’s Street Gospels, culminating in nominations for several Junos (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy), and several European festival appearances. But, as things wound down, so did relationships within the band.
The Canadians synthesise disparate elements into a startlingly coherent whole. Andrew Mueller 2011 It is almost laughably easy to imagine that Light the Horizon will be the album which bestows high-rotation global ubiquity upon Bedouin Soundclash. If this occurs, it will be largely on the strength of lead track Elongo, a languid summoning of sun-dappled paradise with a ruthlessly anthemic chorus, a song which sounds custom-manufactured to soundtrack the closing credits of an overwrought romance, or a commercial for coconut-flavoured chocolate.