Reginald Omas Mamode IV: Stand Strong
Out on 25th March 2022
Pre-order/buy from Bandcamp
Stand Strong is the fourth, and most rounded, solo album by Reginald Omas Mamode IV. This fusion of hip-hop, soul and funk, built upon hypnotic beats, will ooze deeply into your consciousness. Gordon Rutherford reviews for Louder Than War.
Musically speaking, there is a veritable enlightenment happening in South London right now. Making a significant contribution is one particular collective of like-minded artists. There is Tenderlonious, Al Dobson and Henry Wu; plus, the three brothers: Mo Kolours, Jeen Bassa and Reginald Omas Mamode IV. It’s Reginald we are here to talk about today.
The claustrophobic Stand Strong is Mamode’s fourth, and most rounded, solo album. It’s a collection that evolves straight out of the nucleus of that south London collective; one that is centred upon this hazy miasma of brittle beats, hip-hop, jazz and vintage soul. Imagine Sly Stone hooked up with Burial and J Dilla to make an album and you are part way there.
At first glance, it appears to be something of an epic, with no fewer than seventeen tracks listed. You can’t complain about value for money. However, just about half of those tracks clock in at under three minutes with the remainder not much longer. Indeed, no fewer than five are listed by Mamode as interludes or intermissions. These little blipverts, averaging sixty seconds, delightfully form bridges between the sections of fuller, more conventional songs. The overall feel, therefore, is something of a collage of mini-dramas that hazily and lazily morph into one. Furthermore, because these tunes are so snackable, Stand Strong has a very sticky quality. You put it on the turntable and it sucks you into its depths, taking you way beyond the here and now.
It’s evident that Mamode has something important to say on Stand Strong, with several of the songs carrying potent messages. In a subtle way, he makes his protest eloquently against the hierarchical systems created by the ruling classes. But he is optimistic about the future, stating that “my hope is to inspire love, unity and raise a positive consciousness”. His music absolutely reflects that, although, at times, he understandably sounds drained by history. Take, the superb Our Freedom, for example. This languid groove, driven by a popping, funky bass, prepares the canvas for Mamode’s message. His words are strong, but his delivery sounds weary as he proclaims that “They took away our freedom”.
Another feature of Our Freedom – and the entire album – is the presence of a soulful Fender Rhodes. This magnificent member of the keyboard family dominates Stand Strong, bringing a bright and bluesy vibe to the outstanding Welcome Stranger and a fuzzy feel to Trippin’. As hinted at earlier, the spirit of Sly Stone is all over this album and Trippin’ is the perfect case in point.
The Days Of Slavery is another potent protest song. This spiritual, gospel is in the same ballpark as the recent releases by Gabriels, with a moving vocal delivery supplemented by soulful backing vocals. This style of backing vocal is deployed to great effect by Mamode on a few occasions, with Welcome Stranger being another example. The album’s highlight comes in the shape of the powerful title track, which swirls giddily atop glitchy beats. Once again, Mamode sounds weary, worn down by a world that has consistently and steadfastly refused to do the right thing. He implores us to Stand Strong, whilst sounding sapped by the fight.
There is something simple about Stand Strong. Mamode has stripped these songs back to the bare bones, creating a collection of short minimalist trinkets. There is the minimum of fuss or frippery. Moreover, once the groove is established on each song, it stays put. Forget about in-song meanderings or deviations; this isn’t prog. The tunes get into the groove and stay there – and that’s just fine. That fusion of percussive patterns, funky basslines and soulful keys result in an end product that is, invariably, hypnotic and mesmerising.
At seventeen tracks long, there can be no grumbles with regard to the quantity of music on Stand Strong. Critically, however, quality always outweighs quantity. Pleasingly, this is one album where there are categorically no concerns on that score.
All words by Gordon Rutherford. More writing by Gordon can be found in his archive.