The Spinners

Aabot Din Tayo (Tropical Depression, 1996)

In Dodo Dayao, OPM, Reggae on December 7, 2010 at 5:20 am

There was a time when Tropical Depression were the MVPs of homebrewed reggae, and that’s not just because they had the rhythm down. Reggae’s stuttering pulses are easy to nick anyway and the overfamiliar loping, lolling signatures can only go so far before it starts to get humdrum, sincere skills or not. It’s the feel that’s trickier to fake. And with Tropical Depression, groove was always in the heart, not only finding an out from the genre’s sonic cul-de-sac but having the pan-cultural imagination to take it places. Cross-pollination is always more fun, more queasily exciting than inbreeding. The last thing we heard from them, Aabot Din Tayo, though, was a cover album, their Labour of Love, if you will, overshadowed by their solid state debut, flying under the radar into semi-obscurity. Listening to it now, though, it isn’t as disposable as it seemed. The three so-what reggae covers are lively albeit redundant. But the way the Buffalo Springfield chestnut “For What It’s Worth” morphs into a schoolyard sing-along alone is almost sublime. Even more thrilling is how the Afrocentric recharge of Maria Cafra’s “Isang Payo” gives its romantic pep talk the conviction it should’ve had all this time. Then they spike the postmod kundiman of Sampaguita’s “Liwanag” with an achy-breaky melancholia for good measure. The pick of the pickings aren’t only canny but, shot almost all the way through with the band’s ethnocentric code, it feels less haphazard, almost premeditated. Aabot Din Tayo may be hit-and-miss but when it resumes Kapayapaan’s discourse on reggae’s boundless spirituality and utopian optimism, it comes profoundly close to sounding like our own incentives to possibility.

– Dodo Dayao

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