Personnel: Cyro Baptista (vocals, percussion); Jamie Saft (guitar, keyboards, electric bass); Brad Jones (acoustic bass); Craig Santiago (drums).
Recording information: Potterville International Sound, NY.
Photographer: Jamie Saft.
New Zion Trio's third album places pianist, electronicist, and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Saft, acoustic bassist Brad Jones, and drummer Craig Santiago in the company of Brazilian master percussionist Cyro Baptista. While Sunshine Seas grows out of the deep dread reggae of the band's first two offerings, it also deviates from them in important ways, expanding their musical reach. The other member of this ensemble is co-producer Christian Castagno, who has studied the dubwise pressure sounds of everyone from King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry to Augustus Pablo, Yabby U, and Mad Scientist. The new approach is felt immediately on opener "BrazilJah." While Saft's vintage keyboards, guitars, and electronics ride atop a throbbing, hypnotic four-note bassline and tom-tom and snare riddims, Baptista adds everything from chants and percussion instruments to bird calls, compounding the inner space exploration amid massive digital delay and reverb. The title track isn't even reggae, but a dubwise approach to groovy, tropical MPB, with Vanessa Saft adding a breezy vocal to acoustic piano, bass, and samba rhythms played by a trap kit, triangles, hands drums, shakers, and of course, dub effects. "Chalice Pipe" is funkier, with Saft's woven fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Rhodes piano dropping in and out of the spacious mix. Baptista's hand percussion underscores not only the bass and drum lines, but adds accents that bleed lines into one another. He plays Jew's harp on "Ranking," adding immeasurably to the smoky, dank groove full of wonky electronic effects, ghostly keyboards, and thrumming bassline. It's dub hypnosis. The set's longest cut is its closer, "Samba Jahmekya." The tempo is quicker and the dynamic harder. Baptista makes psychotic use of a berimbau to introduce a nasty distorted bassline, power electro pulses, and grooving organ chords amid broken snares, floor toms, and elastic snares. The percussionist adds hand drums as Castagno throws in the kitchen sink, with echo, delay, and backmasking. It's weird, elastic, tripped-out and tough. It's space dub that wouldn't be out of place on Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label. With Baptista in the fold, New Zion Trio reach yet another creative peak on Sunshine Seas. ~ Thom Jurek