Fresh from a morning high, a cool breeze in the air helped put my feet back on the ground. Listening to Wassabi Collective’s new album, Stories Not Forgotten, a mix of dub, reggae and tranquil soft-rock, only eased the mood.
The tense moments I felt leading up to a telephone interview I conducted with Bad Religion bass player Jay Bentley were replaced, after the relaxed chat, with euphoric calm and controlled pleasure, and if ever there was the perfect album to listen to when in your own world then Wassabi Collective’s just released third album surely has to be a top contender. The yet-to-be-signed five-piece band from Nelson B.C. serve up a fresh flavour of music to chill to with their space-like guitar hooks and percussionist Melissa Meretsky’s strangely rasta-like, jazzy voice.
Perfect reggae for a perfect day is the best way to describe Wassabi Collective, but the band also incorporates tribal jazz, folk music and soul into their sound to create a positive vibe and progressive energy that make this album easy to listen to, and even more fun to groove to. The long instrumentals in between vocals keep the interest in songs going, especially with the breezy “Dune”; Meretsky’s soaring vocals coupled with Brent “Gisto” Hongisto’s Santana-influenced guitar solos bring a touch of psychedelia to the already diverse-sounding album. “Belly-Up,” one long instrumental, is the focal point of the album; a lengthy wild Western sound piece, akin to something off Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the song fits in despite the difference in genre from the rest of the album. Other tunes such as the transcendental “Forever” and the straight-up dub reggae “Counterman,” with lyrics about angels, planting seeds and the earth, cement Wassabi Collective as pioneers of organic reggae.
At the end of the album there is an added piece where Meretsky raps over the band’s combined beat-boxing efforts, an impressive ending to a magically mellow album. Like the Easy Star All Stars hit album, Radiodread, or Michael Franti’s Yell Fire, Wassabi Collective’s Stories Not Forgotten is certain to be a major influence on the new reggae sound that is taking Vancouver by storm.