- With dub techniques having been adopted by all and sundry in electronic music circles since the mid-nineties it's refreshing to see reggae take something back. Not that Paul St. Hilaire, the artist formerly known as Tikiman, has ever been firmly associated with either camp; rather, since his emergence as vocalist with Rhythm & Sound's Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald, St. Hilaire has acted as a bridge, linking the dub-inflected electronica of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction and Pole with the more 'authentic' traditional musics of Jamaica and the Caribbean. After Rhythm & Sound's pioneering work with St. Hilaire, many other, mostly German, producers began recruiting roots vocalists: Mapstation hooked up with Ras Donovan; Fenin took on MC Gorbi; and Rhythm & Sound, on their latest See Mi Yah effort, featured a different vocalist on each track.
A Divine State Of Mind (ADSOM), St. Hilaire's second solo album, errs on the side of roots reggae but, with its whirrs, glitches and ounces of reverb, ought to appeal equally to fans of dub electronica. Rhythmically it swaggers by at a leisurely rock-steady skank, and while the drums appear to have been laid down digitally (St. Hilaire is credited as responsible for all composition, production and instrumentation), there's a warm acoustic feel to even the most effected tracks.
After his obvious skills as a vocalist, most immediately impressive is St. Hilaire's guitar work, prevalent throughout and veering from clean short flurries to washed out streaks (it's now clear who was responsible for the guitar in Rhythm and Sound's 'Jah Rule'). Opener 'Little Song' drenches the instrument in wah-wah until the whole song swishes to and fro, while 'Praise' has the tone of crisp, clanging Calypso. 'Black Moses' aims for a similarly raw feel: It could appear on a Trojan Lovers set, with St. Hilaire sounding like a youthful Bob Marley. Elsewhere 'Humble' has him an octave lower and slower, his dread patois laid on convincingly thick. With its stacks of ghostly keyboard swirl amid palpably thick humid atmosphere, 'Humble' also comes closest to Rhythm & Sound, only more colourful. Vocals tend towards the usual roots reggae fare - 'Praise', 'Jah Love', 'Rootsy' - with 'Office' being a modern tale of employment woe and 'Fortunate' lamenting the economic inequalities of contemporary society. St. Hilaire is convincing throughout, with 'A Divine State of Mind' an excellent demonstration of his talents.
1 Little Song
4 Jah Won’t Let Us Down
5 Clock A Tick
6 Jah Love
9 Black Moses
11 Jah Live Over The Hills