The Lions Jungle Struttin' (Ubiquity) Release date: February 19, 2008
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
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The Lions include seven LA musicians who have seemingly immersed themselves in the ganja-smoke-saturated aura of Jamaica's finest sonic export and devised a sound based on it. Which is to say, undivided attention must be paid to their just-released album, Jungle Struttin'.
Composed of members from such crucial units as Breakestra, Orgone, Madlib's Sound Directions, Connie Price & the Keystones and Rhythm Roots All-Stars, the Lions use reggae and dub as their default mode, evoking resinated, mid-'70s Kingston more than late-'00s Los Angeles, a very neat trick. From that base/bass, the Lions roam into subtle extrapolations of Afrobeat, funk and the wonderful aural intoxicant you hear on those Ethiopiques compilations.
Caucasian dudes exploring a myriad global musics typically comes off sounding diluted and uninspired, but the Lions possess an intangible, sympathetic affinity that enables them to assimilate these styles without degrading nor merely Xeroxing them. And the cover of the James Brown-penned “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins is cleverly reimagined as a sensuously churning skank with spirited vocals by Noelle Scaggs. Jah-breakingly good stuff.