You should know Diplo’s drill by now. Wesley Pentz has been at the forefront of global dance culture for about five years, knocking out thriller DJ sets and a consistent array of jump-up remixes and production. With the Major Lazer project, he teams up with UK producer Switch to shine a light on Jamaican dancehall’s current talent.
Forget the concept of Major Lazer as a Jamaican renegade soldier with lazers as prosthetic limbs who lost his arm in the secret Zombie War of 1984 (though the idea does inspire the brilliant artwork), the combo of Diplo and Switch along with the MCs and singers here is more than enough to focus on.
Largely recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lasers Do is a digital dancehall album, a futuristic twist on that great Jamaican genre imbued with flavours of baile funk, hip-hop, and the global soundclash of modern dance. Opener ‘Hold The Line’ which features Santigold and Mr Lex is built on a incessant guitar line akin to Pulp Fiction’s ‘Misirlou’ sets out the album’s party vibes and is also one of the best songs this year.
While it’s great to hear some underappreciated reggae talent like Turbulence, Ms. Thing, Mr. Vegas, Jahdan Blakkamore and Nina Sky let loose in front of an audience, the producers impress as much with their tight rhythms and imaginative production. ‘When You Hear The Bassline’ positively booms with beats and effects, ‘Anything Goes’ with Turbulence’s excellent ragga delivery is built on a warped string sample which almost wobbles behind him while ‘Jump Up’ with its catchy synth line will cache in your brain for days.
‘Keep it Going Louder’ which features Nina Sky and an autotuned Ricky Blaze has been hailed by a few noted writers (Sasha Frere Jones of The New Yorker) as one of the tunes of 2009. The reason? The song’s remit is far beyond digital-dancehall, it’s pure mainstream dance pop with a euphoric European dance breakdown and a summer jam feel.
There is the odd misstep in the form of an annoying autotune baby interlude but what makes Guns Don’t Kill People… Lasers Do a great album is nearly every track is a floorfiller. Put on ‘Pon de Floor’ at a club and watch the room fall apart to its chopped-up vocal hook. Guaranteed party jams.
‘Keep it Going Louder’