NYC Reggae Collective alieNation coverNYC Reggae Collective
[Benchwarrant Records, 2004]

I hope you can afford the commitment that “alieNation” requires, because it will keep you busy. First there’s the music, 70:30 worth; or 73:30 if you count the three minutes of silence before the last hidden track. Then you’ll want to play the whole album again, and yet again, so already we’re at over three and a half hours of your valuable time. For some perverse reason, the small-print lyrics face north, south, east and west, so all that turning and reading take time too. Contemplating the strange and beautiful ugliness of the inner-fold art isn’t an instantaneous thing either, especially when you try to link it (and the front and back cover illustrations) to the lyrics, an unavoidable temptation.

Still with me? Next, you’ll want to get on the Web to find out more about the creative people involved, and when you do you’ll discover various permutations and combinations of them and their projects (including New York City’s critically acclaimed THE MOT!VES), all of which involves the old time factor. Your Google search on “theremin” will take several minutes to explore satisfactorily, but you gotta do what you gotta do. So by now it’s bedtime, and you’ll have to save your fourth listen until tomorrow, which is a shame.

As a few people will now realize, given the above band reference, the amazing talents of Louie Fleck come to the fore in this album. He did most of the song writing, then produced, arranged and engineered to boot. Nevertheless, NYC Reggae Collective is a nicely unified band: the sound from one track to another engages and coheres, despite the variety of lead singers involved—seven, if I counted right. The musicianship is impeccable; if you decide to have a banjo player as a guest, for example, who better to choose than Béla Fleck?

From track one’s plaintive lead vocal, optimistic lyrics, and warm warbley wahwah instrumentation, through to the danceable and dance-themed eight minutes of the hidden track 16, it’s a multi-faceted and enchanting journey. A major commitment on your part, sure, but I can’t think of many more enjoyable uses of your precious time than becoming thoroughly aleiNated with this album.

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