ZION TRAIN: Illuminate (Universal Egg 2020)

Seven years in the making, Zion Train return with a new album to shake speakers up and down the land.

It has been a twisty turny adventure for Zion Train over the last 30 years. Their first three albums were strictly dub. Dub with an electronic edge, but still dub, none the less. With ‘Siren’ in 1995 they went up a gear with a more upbeat dancey vibe. Ever since it has been a journey of adventure and experimentation, dabbling in all sorts of dancehall vibrations but at all times retaining that dubby edge.

Not only have they explored different musical avenues, but they have also had a fluctuating line up. Neil Perch has been the one constant throughout – although the crispy horn section have never wandered far.

With this, their thirteenth studio album, they continue that collaborative approach.

“With Illuminate we have tried to combine some very talented singers and players to enact Zion Train’s perspective on humanity and our future in the earth”. Neil Perch tells us.

And in one sentence, he pretty much sums it up. We get reflections on the state of humankind, our interactions with each other and the planet on which we live. All laid over the trade mark Zion Train dubby dance riddims and textures.

The album opens with the single ‘We Shall Rise’, featuring our old friend Cara. As well as her solo work she has provided vocals for The Defekters and Pama International over the last decade or so. And ‘Rise’ demonstrates why her voice is in such high demand. But its a  two way thing.

“It is an absolute dream come true to be working alongside Neil and with Zion Train… I have been in love with the music since my teens, so to have the opportunity to collaborate, create and add energy to the sounds is the highest honour”.

“Illuminate is the first album I have worked on with Neil and we hope there will be a lot more to come”. Cara told us.

As the title suggests, ‘We Shall Rise’ is a clarion call for freedom fighters to join the revolution – with a natty dub soundtrack. The album’s stall is set out from the off.

‘Politrix’, another single, features Prince Jamo of the Black Rose Studio and continues the rebellious nature of the album, questioning the honesty and integrity of professional politicians. Two numbers in and we already have a revolution that Emma Goldman would have been happy to join in. A revolution you can dance to.

The tempo drops a little, but the bass is turned up for ‘Watch Where’, the first of two tracks featuring Lua, a long time Zion train collaborator. She lays down a mellow vocal over an old school Zion Train dub, laced with the brass of the Crispy Horns.

The tempo remains dubby as MC Rider Shafique announces ‘This is How it Starts’, a cautionary tale of propaganda and bigotry.

Cara returns for two more tunes, ‘Biorhythm’ and ‘Fateshifter’.

Michela Grena of The Wicked Dub Division brings her sweet Italian vocals to the party for the dubby ‘Cultural Memory’ and sends us off searching the web for her back catalogue.

As the world is going mad around us, ‘Unity’, is indeed what we need and Prince David makes the case in a blessed and blissed out style.

Just when you feel that the album has quenched your thirst with enough new voices in one sitting, Jasmine Tutum slips in with ‘Don’t Forget’, just before Brother Culture concludes the guest appearances with ‘Political Friction’ – Dancehall meets dub.

The album concludes with ‘Journey’ and ‘Up Bidston Hill’, two guest free instrumental tunes that prove that whilst the guests make this album a bit special, Zion Train are quite capable of shaking the house on their own.

(*release date 1st May 3020)