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David James

The Black Seeds Cross-Pollinate on Dust and Dirt

New Zealand Reggae Band Brings Fusion of Sounds to SOhO


CONSTANT GARDENERS: Say what you will about reggae music; when it’s done well, it can be downright infectious. In the decades since Bob Marley, the genre has been tried and tweaked by all manner of musicians, spawning musical hybridizations good (Sister Nancy) and bad (Daddy Yankee), and crossing boundaries both figuratively and literally. Take, for example, The Black Seeds. Since forming in 1998, this collective of dub-loving New Zealanders has garnered its fair share of worldly hype. Their 2009 album, Solid Ground, even landed atop CMJ’s World Music Charts — for more than two months. The accolades come as no surprise, though. The Black Seeds embody all the archetypal reggae tropes — slick bass, slinky drums, positivity inspiring lyricism — but do so with a nod to world music at large. Elements of jazz, ska, funk, and electronica weave in and out of the Seeds’ records, making for tracks that are both listenable and intricately layered.

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David James

This week, The Black Seeds return to the West Coast as part of a two-week-long North American Tour. (They stop by SOhO on Sat., Apr. 7.) The stint comes in support of Dust and Dirt, the Seeds’ latest release and first for Easy Star Records. Further pushing the limits of their genre specifications, the band channels all means of inspiration on Dust and Dirt. Album opener “Out of Light” is an electronic-heavy, sexy slow burner that calls to mind Massive Attack and Gorillaz in equal measure. Even the more traditional reggae tracks take cues from some of electronica’s purveyors; the horns on the album’s title track play off a delicate and decidedly downtempo-esque piano line, while lead single “Pippy Pip” is brimming with trip-hoppy world beats. It may be a far cry from the stuff of traditional roots music, but it’s also a great example of how musical cross-pollination works. Taken out of their elements of origin, genres take on lives of their own, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The Black Seeds are a prime example of a group that gets it right and continues to push reggae forward in new, exciting directions.

The Black Seeds play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Saturday, April 7, at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.

LISTEN UP: Speaking of culturally rich music, this Saturday brings another exciting—and medium-bending—event to Santa Barbara. Starting at 3 p.m., Warbler Records & Goods (131 E. De la Guerra St.) plays host to author and archivist Pat Thomas, who’ll discuss and spin records relating to his recently released book, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power: 1965-1975. The book, a project Thomas began back in 2004, is an engaging study in the relationship between the Black Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s and the protest recordings it spawned. In turn, Thomas himself lays claim to one of the largest collections of Black Power records known, and will spend his Saturday afternoon stop in S.B. sharing everything from protest speeches to jazz and soul music offerings. Whether you’re in it for the history lesson or to peek some seriously rare vinyl, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a neat story or two. For info, call (805) 845-5862 or visit warblerrecords.com.

ALSO THIS WEEK: In keeping with the theme, this weekend also brings Linda Newlin to the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Monday, April 9, at 7 p.m. Titled It’s NOT Okay, Newlin’s music and spoken-word performance will focus on issues of abuse and the helpfulness of positive affirmations, with proceeds benefiting CALM. Call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com for info. … On Wednesday, April 11, L.A. gypsy jazz collective Fishtank Ensemble will return to town for a late-night show at SOhO. And on Thursday, April 12, rapper Perrion heads to Velvet Jones for an 18-and-older show featuring openers NUK and DJ Hoodzpah. For a full list of live music events, visit independent.com/events.

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