Album Review: Resonators – Imaginary People [Wah Wah 45s, 30th September 2016]

What is a resonator? A resonator, according to a quick Google search, “produces a deep, full, reverberating sound.”

A band of resonators, then, produces deep, full, reverberating sound and sounds, first and foremost, which one may call music, for it was composed to be considered as such: songs that enchant. The resonator is a pied piper, the musical tale-teller that has existed since the dawn of time: a djeli with a kora, a Taino singing an areyto. Enchanting certainly applies to the songs that make up Imaginary People, the Resonators‘ third album. They succeed first and foremost because the band stays true to what their name promises: despite the album’s esoteric title, they deliver music that makes for a full, deep, jovial, experience; in other words full of enchantment and resonance.

Imaginary People is phenomenal because it speaks dub reggae to our contemporary conditions – the fact that most of us don’t want to change the fact that we love laughter and dance, as much as we love politics. Gone are the days of humming Leo Ferre’s renditions of ‘Aragon’ or ‘Tropicalia’ – revolutionary songs that numb, though we live in an age of as much political demonstration. ‘Papa Dadio’ allows one to dance along with it as one’s self: worry free and with ease. It’s as if one finds one’s self suddenly smiling as the song moves elegantly forward.

The same goes for ‘Swing Easy’, a song beautifully sung and as light as is a well written folk tale. Lyrics like don’t need to / look / farther enchant. This album’s songs are best when they enchant elegantly. It is the album’s best song. The allure of ‘Gonna Change’ is slow but thrilling. The lyrics aren’t perfect but still strong.

‘Trees’ is composed to be more fun than graceful. The ambition to produce both elegance and play might be the Resonators hardest bet – fun is more than often not elegant. It’s nonetheless a great listen, if one allows one’s self to associate pleasure and captivation.

The trip to playing any sort of music well is a long one and it is certainly the case for dub and reggae. The question is for dub reggae: now that the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s are over and the neoliberalism and triumphant capitalism (sitcoms, clothing, etc) of the nineties and beyond have socialised us to be as such, how exactly does one compose warrior songs for a changed public?

In Jamaica, the question has spawned dancehall. Every so often a group of musicians chooses to answer that very question with music that feeds night people and radio listeners with warrior chants and warrior rhythms. Such a group does not benefit from the help provided to those who would like to replicate Wagner and Mozart. When new reggae succeeds, the music is both charged with the fact that it was made in and for the present, and also with the fact that it has succeeded in the past. When it hits you, (Imaginary People,) such music means a whole lot to its listener.