Sonic Textiles – The Black Seeds' Fabric
By now a national institution, The Black Seeds have just embarked on a release tour to promote their sixth studio album, Fabric. Formed in Wellington in 1998 when founder, guitarist, and lead singer Barnaby Weir was working at Radio Active, their music is a boundary-crossing sound fusion of funk, dub, afro music, pop, rock, and soul, mixed up with a mighty large dose of classic roots reggae beats. Their first album, Keep on Pushing, was released 2001 when the band had already established themselves as a strong live act. After building up a solid reputation in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the US, their third album Into the Dojo introduced The Black Seeds to the rest of the world in 2006.
Weir, who is also associated with Fly My Pretties and Flash Harry, has always been a huge reggae fan, telling the Jamaica Observer: "The radio station where we worked is, and was, a vibrant musical environment. At the time there were a handful of DJs playing and importing Jamaican music and the original members were inspired by some of the sounds we were discovering with help from those who knew and had the tunes."
To date, The Black Seeds have released five albums, a live album, and two remix albums. Once dubbed "the best reggae band in the world right now" by Rolling Stone Magazine, they have two double-platinum selling albums in New Zealand and Ttheir rocksteady-influenced song One By One became an international hit when it was featured in an episode of Breaking Bad.
Smooth as mulberry silk, Fabric picks up seamlessly where the band's previous albums left off. There has not been much in terms of musical evolution from Into the Dojo, through Solid Ground (2008), to Dust and Dirt (2012). While that may be just fine for the many fans who relish Weir's velveteen vocals and the phat bass lines that throb and pulsate throughout, Fabric is cut from pretty much the same familiar cloth. It is a technically slick and impressive product, with closely interwoven threads creating patterns and textures that provide the kind of comfortably reliable aural upholstery we have come to expect from these consummate musicians.
The use of synthesisers throughout the album adds an edgy dynamic to the tailoring, injecting a refreshing change of pace into Back to You, while the single Better Days remains the most refined and playful cut. Fabric constitutes a sort of layered, soothing, and reassuringly laid-back sonic textile. Never mind the quality, feel the width …
You can see The Black Seeds play live in Raglan - 21/9; Auckland - 22/9; Tauranga - 23/9; Wanaka - 27/9; Dunedin - 28/9; Christchurch - 29/9; Nelson - 30/9; and the San Fran Bathhouse, Wellington - 6&7/10.