See-I2011, Fort Knox Recordings

I hate using clichés, but this is a perfect occasion for this one: “greater than the sum of its parts.” The notable musical elements on display in the eponymously titled See-I aren’t unusual in the broad spectrum of reggae – dub effects, funky horns, soul and rap influences, lyrics reflecting socio-economic concerns, variations on the one-drop – but rarely have I heard them cohere in what sounds like such an inevitable, natural way. And when you add melodic hooks galore, memorable vocal performances, seamless and creative arrangements, and well-played instruments (computerized and otherwise), then you’ve got a remarkably successful album.

Given the disc’s highly sophisticated production values, with lots of manipulation in the studio, I almost expected the sheen to start shining to excess. But no, happily the album remains grounded in good vibes. Although See-I was clearly reaching for something out of the ordinary, those efforts never succumbed to a self-conscious kind of experimentation or awkwardness. So although this may be one of the most viable “future of reggae” efforts you’re likely to come across these days, just relax; there’s no grimacing required here. The listening is enjoyable throughout.