By Gerry McMahon
Marcus Gad’s musical inventory makes him one of the most interesting and exciting developments on the international reggae horizon. The release of his latest album ‘Brave New World’ coincides with announcements of an ever-increasing 2022 tour schedule, that includes the 2 heavy-hitter festivals of Rototom and Summerjam, with France’s No Logo most recently getting in on the act, by securing his services for their August event in the picturesque St. Malo.
Whatever the pandemic’s tolerance of such events, it was to the disappointment of many that Gad was forced off the touring pitch in 2021 by Covid-19’s restrictions. However, as the sages say, ‘it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good’. So, on foot of the cancellations, Gad eventually retreated to Paris to link up with his long-time accomplice Tamal, giving rise to this new release. Having reached spectacular musical (as opposed to chart) heights with the fantastic ‘Enter A Space’ EP, much was expected of the pair’s re-union – as Gad took main responsibility for the lyrics and melodies, leaving Tamal in charge of the instrumentals, recording, mixing and production on this new conception.
Explaining their novel recording pitch, the duo explains that this new release resonates to ‘prevent stress, promote relaxation and heal our internal systems’. Between climate change and a pandemic, you’d have to agree that it couldn’t come at a better time! This new release also reflects a new departure in style, as the pair veer toward popular contemporary rap and hip-hop grooves (alongside some soulful slices, with roots reggae fuelling all from the boiler room).
The 12-track album opens with its lively title track ‘Brave New World’, which – though unclear as to its main message due to the pace of the delivery – namechecks such issues as radiation, population control, facial recognition, nanoparticles, antibiotics, and the laws of nature, as ‘them a wanna trick me’. The damaging duplicity at work here is reflected in Gad’s advice that you: ‘treat your fellow right and your family well, we’re together in a fight and we must live to tell. Whatever the dollar, we are stronger than them, whatever the media we outnumber them, whatever the reign, Jah Jah still above them’. There is no ambiguity whatsoever on the second track, as it opens and is interspersed with formal announcements about the damage being done to the environment, as ‘Between The Lines’ endorses the case for taking a stand on this cause celebre, as rightfully prioritized by the younger generation. This is followed by an upbeat ‘Sunshine’, with some delicate ivory tinkling (i.e. synthesizer inputs) lending the track a delightful melodic bounce. Thereafter, ‘Break The Spell’ allows Gad to give full vent to his undoubted vocal gifts, as he laments many of mankind’s limitations, with the ding-dong church bell-type inputs lending the track a haunting effect, as it embellishes a call to arms.
This gives way to one of the release’s stand-out tracks, entitled ‘Tempo’ – which was released as a single with an accompanying video – where Gad appropriately deploys some of the musical expertise that he gleaned during his recent Moroccan sojourn. For example, the ancient Loutar (or lute) instrument lends the track a novel, mesmerizing and effective variation, whilst the intermittent choral ensemble inputs often bring it to a celebratory peak.
Nodding to his house-band and musical colleagues, ‘Callin I Tribe’ picks up the pace, though occasionally stalled to enable some sweet vocal and ivory tinkling inputs. ‘One Day’ is next up and is another well-worked mainly fast-paced track, which (like many rap and hip-hop sounds) would benefit from a lyrics sheet, as the message (promoting faith in a whirlwind world) can get clouded by these genres’ urge to quickly rhyme with rhythm. Much the same can be said of ‘Treasure’ – which (thanks to the press release) – explains that the track is a response to this South Pacific Islander’s relationship with mycelium fungus (which should not be confused with mushrooms of the magical variety!). Commenting thereon, Gad explains that: ‘ ‘Treasure’ is one of my personal favorite tracks on this album. I have a very special relationship to fungus and mushrooms in general and I believe that mankind has much to gain by learning from the fungal world as it holds major keys to our survival and prosperity on this planet. We can restore ecosystems on a global scale if we take time to understand how the soil functions and the role mycelium plays in the process of natural succession.
Then comes ‘Look Around’, a short, pleasant, mindful and contemplative track, that recommends you ‘look around with your eyes closed’, but that you also ‘speak your mind with your heart closed’ – suffice to say that there’s food for thought here, courtesy of the Gad school of philosophy.
And serving to confirm the artist’s extensive musical range, ‘Young One’ then blasts from the rooftops, via an anguished but direct and soulful rendition of some home truths. Between the vocals, the rhythm, the percussion and organ inputs (from Franck Paulin of Gad’s Tribe band), this track is the most surprising addition to the compilation and well worth waiting for, as Gad goes soulful, with flecks of jazz and blues built in to boot. Competing with ‘Tempo’, some will surely say that this is the new album’s stand-out track – and I won’t disagree with them, as it exhorts the youth to ‘trust in yourself’ and ‘shine like a star’. Returning to the earlier theme of the earth’s destruction, the album’s penultimate input ‘From The Ashes’ issues a timely warning to the human race that we need to get our act together, as you ‘recover from your lashes’ before ‘it’s too late’. This sets the scene for the grand finale, as Gad warns us to be ‘Careful What You Wish For’, with some supplementary advisory snippets that succinctly summarise much of what this righteously reflective album stands for.
Covid-19 couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gad (and too many of his generation). Standing on the cusp of a big breakthrough, he has yet to make what will eventually be a well-deserved dent in the charts. But if equally talented roots-steeped contemporaries like Protoje and Alborosie can do it, so surely will Gad. Let’s hope that’s enabled by his new alliance with Easy Star Records and a well-attended and hectic touring experience through the summer of 2022 and beyond. Mesmerizing melodic musical messages that promote humanity’s hopes, resilience, and righteousness deserve an audience. Gad and Tamal’s work is very much a contemporary take on traditional real roots reggae. So, as to Gad and Tamal’s prospects, as Bob Marley did put it: ‘Time Will Tell’.