Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters – Super Ape (1976)
For lack of a better comparison, Super Ape is the Sgt. Peppers of Jamaica (or at least its Their Satanic Majesties Request). Any number of adjectives apply to this album: bold, ambitious, experimental, self-indulgent, bewildering. It might even be called a concept album, albeit an allusive one. Try as you might, this album defies labels, and continues to stand on its own, full formed, as a satisfying feat of production prowess.
By 1976, Perry had already established himself as a musical pioneer, producing scores of records which now sit in the canon of essential Jamaican music. On Super Ape, we hear him at the top of his game- frequent nods to his reggae roots, while creating the framework for the burgeoning genres of dub and dancehall.
The Upsetters, Perry’s long time backing band, are the bedrock here, laying down a solid foundation of intricate, mellow-cool rhythms. A seemingly disembodied brass section flitters into and out of focus, much the like the vocals, which are stitched together from multiple takes, microphones, vocalists, and seemingly, planets. The effect is hypnotic and quietive, suggesting both contemplation and turmoil- a subterranean fire which occasionally comes to the surface. An apt metaphor for Jamaica in the late 1970s.