Karlex – Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince (2013)

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Sounding something like reggae dub, Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince blends Bob Marley-style political sentiments and thunking music hall beats — with Karlex’s spoken-more-than-sung vocals as the centering point.

Even describing it, though, underscores the potential problem with this endlessly danceable but occasionally cluttered project. Karlex can have so much going on that Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince loses momentum. Luckily, Karlex’s sheer intellect, both in the construction of an ass-wagging riff and the thought-provoking lyric has a way of smoothing out the rough edges.

There are also, throughout, a few modern touches that create a more interesting context about the classically inspired riddims of “O Ma Belle” and “Miami Beach.” “Restavek,” for instance, is powered a classic Chic disco beat, while “Regarder la Verite” and “Beautiful Life” bip along with a new wave attitude. “Migration People,” maybe the best of them all, builds off a greasy Earth Wind and Fire-inspired bass cadence.

Ultimately, Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince isn’t served very well by its mid-tempo opener, though “Sleepless In Bandol” certainly conveys a dreamless somnambulism. “I Say Hey” is funky, but ultimately too overstuffed and too repetitive — even after Karlex is joined by a smoldering guest female vocalist.

Listen more closely, though, and Karlex — like Marley before him — is often exploring something more complex than the big beats on Paris, New York, Port-au-Prince might suggest. “Slave Boat” has such a silky smooth atmosphere that you might miss its harrowing tale of indentured dislocation. “Migration People,” meanwhile, deals with the hard realities of those who choose to leave for America. He closes with “No More Lies,” a excoriating rebuke of faithless politicians set to a towering groove.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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