Hotting Up the Roads of Reggae
Before I know it, I’m cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway in a dusty Jetta named Tyrese. The music is blasting. I’ve opted for “4-50” air conditioning and the sun-warmed wind is running its tangled fingers through my dirty hair. I’m staring, mesmerized, at the citrine rays glittering off the waves. I have no purpose, no destination, no end game—just cruising that ocean road for the joy, the freedom and the luxurious escape from nothing. The “Needle on my compass is spinning/ Imagination is winning/ Can't get my head right/ I get the feeling that I can't get back.”
But I lift my lashes and I am back. No regrets though; this album is bangin’ and the lifeblood of music—a live performance—is not far off. The miserable Burqueños who are starting to feel the cold sting of winter (well, kinda) can join me in absorbing the warm and tingling rays of the sun caressing our burnished skin and taking our cerebellums to a new level of chill when Iration surfs onto the stage at Sunshine Theater (120 Central SW) this Wednesday, Nov. 11. Repping their fourth studio album, Hotting Up, the band is in top form and ready to see if they can surpass their 2010 hit Time Bomb, which is still ranked fifth on the Billboard Reggae Album rankings.
Though its members—Joseph Dickens (drums), Joseph King (engineer), Cayson Peterson (keyboard/synth), Micah Pueschel (guitar/ vocals) and Adam Taylor (bass)—are all natives of the 50th state, Iration itself hails from Santa Barbara, Calif. 11 years together have produced an upbeat So-Cal reggae sound with echoes from those paradisiacal islands heard in steel drums, claves and lyrical visions of “sunburned cheeks” and “sheets filled with sand.” Fans of Pepper, The Dirty Heads, The Expendables, J. Boog, Sublime with Rome and the like know what’s up. But for the uninitiated, Iration is a sunshine reggae-rock band that gets your head bobbing and your hips swaying. Even if you don’t know them by name, you’ll certainly recognize summertime anthems like party girl tune “Time Bomb,” romantic “Falling,” and nostalgic “Summer Nights.”
According to vocalist and guitarist Micah, “Hotting Up is the next step in the progression of our sound. It's a beat-driven, up-tempo record, but still contains the signature drum and bass, rocking guitars and catchy melodies/harmonies that distinguish our sound.” For me though, it is all about that bass. It hooks you in and leads you through each song, tugging at your eardrums like a powerful undertow below the guitars and vocals. There’s a weight to the vibrations, yet an addictive bounce that has you playing songs like “Reelin’” and “Midnight” on repeat. Killer guitar riffs snatch you up and the trumpets in “Stay Awake” shout out in acknowledgment of the ska relations in the reggae family tree. “Lost and Found” harkens to sandy islands and crystal blue waters with maracas, wooden claves and a steel drum sound that might actually be a wailing guitar in Hawaiian disguise. (Cue images of tiki torches and blended drinks with colorful umbrellas.)
The album’s title song “Hotting Up” flies listeners back to Cali’s “American Riviera” with a deconstructed instrumental intro that builds from drums to guitar, weaving jaggedly until becoming cohesive and launching into the song like a cliff diver over the edge. To dig this, you really have to appreciate the way the bass—if you turn it loud enough—vibrates through your bones and organs, using your ribs like a tuning fork. Through the sound of your teeth buzzing against each other, you can focus on that syncopated bass line at the root of reggae that originates in the thump-thump-pause of your own heartbeat. Sixth in the track list, “Nothing At All” picks up speed and slings you in to the second half of the album. Micah’s vocal talents are really allowed to shine here as well as a keyboard bit at the bridge that balances the tune like a lull in a rainstorm. Also keep your ears perked for the ridiculously catchy synth-bedazzled “867.” It inspires a synesthetic experience featuring your consciousness speeding down a rainbow highway in a chill-ass video game with stars and fruit hanging in the inky, digital ether. The electronic sounds tickle your ears as they twinkle and explode into your cranium and shine behind your eyes.
The band says that love fuels their melodies and it shows. In the bouncing tempos, playful musicianship and delicate mixing and editing—the love shows. So show your love by showing up to catch that heavy, healing bassline at Sunshine—it’ll send you “Reelin’” for sure.