Portals

Akae Beka

1 Grade Records, 2016

http://www.akaebeka.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/22/2016

On Vaughn Benjamin’s most recent project, not only does he adopt a new name (originated from the apocryphal Book Of Enoch), but he also embarks on new avenues of exploring roots reggae from a spiritual side and with plenty of layered guitar work. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Benjamin is certainly no stranger to the genre; since he first founded the outfit Midnite in the late '80s, an act that heavily embraced love and equality, he's been quite busy. After his brother Ron left Midnite in 2015, Akae Beka was born.

Portals focuses much more on spirituality, which is evident from the first track “Heavy Low,” which features quaint, distorted guitar work that calls out for the listener to embark on a new path. While the tone and overall pace of the album is quite similar, musically the subtle changes of synth melody in songs like “Changes” and the horn moments of “Ideals Of The Emperor” provide nice, elegant variety.

Lyrically, it's a deep album. Songs like “Let Babylon Go” center around tranquility. “Like Rhyme” advises us to consider others’ perceptions and how they are shaped. While much of the album is based in allegory, and symbolism, Vaughn makes things very straightforward on the aptly titled “Love Is The Mainstay.”

While the entire disc is enjoyable and flows together seamlessly, “Simplest Long” is a highlight with an infectious island feel and a serenity that is both calming and trance inducing. “Be Kindly” certainly deserves a mention, too, not only for its layered and meticulous instrumentation but also for the message of being friendly and genuine, which is something we here in the States could all benefit from during these tumultuous times.

While anyone who enjoyed the work Vaughn did in Midnite will appreciate his work as Akae Beka, it's also likely that fans of R&B, soul, and, of course, anything related to reggae should be paying close attention here.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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