Led by mainman OG Papa Cool Breeze, dub / reggae collective Seekers International have spent the last five years since their emergence championing a soundsystem-based approach that incorporates vintage synth records and obscure library recordings alongside more familiar ragga stylings. Interestingly enough, this latest album alongside frequent collaborator MX7 ‘SKRS INTL Meets MX7 Inna Dancehall Showdown’ was originally intended to be released as the collective’s second album back in 2012 before the Oklahoma-based Digitalis label folded, leaving it without a home. Thankfully, ICS Library Music and Honest Jon’s have leapt into action, rescuing this otherwise ‘lost’ album from oblivion.
As the pistol holster sleeve artwork hints, spaghetti westerns exert a strong influence upon a lot of the 16 tracks collected here, whether in the form of the ‘badman’ contextualisation of the sampled dialogue that occasionally flits through, or the ricocheting, delay-drenched gunshots and cocked trigger noises. Given the retro dancehall look of the front cover, it’s initially surprising just how future a lot of this album sounds, with more vintage sounding bleeps and MC vocal fragments smoothly fusing with sheeny post-dubstep electronics and jittery leftfield electronics. Indeed, there are points here where you can pretty much draw a direct line between the likes of On-U Sound and Horsepower Productions.
For the most part, the tracks are fairly short and flit by quickly here, giving this the sense of a live / dj set more than anything else. ‘Original Suffera’ opens things with gunshots and the sounds of hooves receding into the distance before squelching analogue synths and stuttering sampled MC chat gradually build into a wall of sound alongside swelling bass drones, before ‘Trigga Happy’ brings the hammer down, sending arcade game-like spaghetti western synths burbling along against glassy pads as laser bursts and sampled kung-fu kicks crash chaotically through the mix.
Elsewhere, ‘Legal Now’ shifts from a spoken sample intoning “Now Buster, you just sit down there” before a barrage of gunfire signals the entrance of jittering bleepy electronics, as a heavily Jamaican accented robo-vocal repeats the title against demonic cackles, only for the entire track to fade out amidst slow beats, tolling church bells as the chirping of crickets. If it’s easily one of the more eerie moments here, elsewhere ‘Killing A Sound’ sees the Seekers getting far more loose, sending blippy analogue electronics and gleaming electro synths rippling against digitally manipulated ragga-soul harmonies and Clint Eastwood samples in a manner that curiously calls to mind one of Flying Lotus’ more electro-laced excursions.
All up, ‘Inna Dancehall Showdown’ is a frequently thrilling slab of electro-infused dub / dancehall that’s particularly likely to appeal to fans of digi-dub along the lines of Jahtari, and for a album that’s been in the can for the last five years it’s barely aged at all.