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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Karlex - Paris - New York - Port-au-Prince

Karlex – Paris – New York – Port-au-Prince
2013, Lil’ People Records
Karlex has been dubbed the Bob Marley of Haiti.  This is a great marketing angle, but a listen to Karlex’ music reveals something more than that.  Paris – New York – Port-au-Prince is a dub-centric world groove that draws in elements of Creole, Afro-Dub, Euro-Pop and American R&B.  The focus here is on the journey from Africa to the Americas, and encompassing the musical and cultural styles of all stops in between.  Karlex uses his own unique style of talk singing throughout the album, creating a sound that is nothing short of iconic.
The arrangements on Paris – New York – Port-au-Prince are a mixed bag of music hall tracks.  Catchy riffs over formulaic dance beats are often the focus.  The spice comes from the mix of musical influences Karlex works in.  He kicks off with the generic and loop-driven R&B of “Sleepless In Bandol”.  This mildly catchy number might garner some low level interest at commercial radio but wouldn’t last long.  Similar things can be said for many of the songs on the album, but the arrangements are not what you’ll ultimately pay attention to.  Karlex has presence.  It comes across on the record and it will certainly come across on stage.  This is a man you will listen to even if you don’t understand the words.  Karlex engages the listener, and projects passion in his powerfully memorable voice.
Other highlights include the messy dance pop of “Migration People”.  This one starts out sounding like it’s going to get lost in itself, but resolves into a wonderfully bright chorus. “Ca Mouin Oue” is the highlight of the album, and infectious piece of jazz-influenced dance pop that will knock around your noggin for a while.  If there is a hit on the album, this is it.  Other key tracks for the dance set are “Restavek”, “O Ma Belle” and “Miami Beach”.  Unfortunately, Karlex decides to close out with the overly simplified political message of “No More Lies”.  While the message is admirable, the repetitive nature of the song is a turnoff, and the depth of the political commentary is paper thin.
Karlex establishes himself as a talented but unfocused force on Paris – New York – Port-au-Prince.  His overall message is seeded in real life experience, and fits in nicely with current socio-political trends, but loses its elemental power amidst sometimes messy and often repetitive dance beats.  Karlex’ voice and presence are likely to keep him in the public eye, however, and may even overcome some of the more glaring weaknesses of the album.  There will certainly be some momentum for Karlex on the dance scene, particularly once a producer or two remixes and cleans up some of the messier tracks on the album.
Rating:  2.5 Stars (Out of 5)
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