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First Listen: Tatanka – Love Is Medicine

The most exciting bands in the American reggae/rock scene today bring a distinct and unique sound that sets them apart from the bulk of the rest. Hailing from the Mile High City, Tatanka has made an increasingly popular name for themselves by infusing electronic elements with traditional reggae instrumentation to create a deep, layered brand of rootsy dub.

Their new single, “Love is Medicine”, created in collaboration with production wizard E.N Young of Roots Musician Records, follows suit. It comes to life with a slow fade-in of reverberating synthesizer, creating a techy, trippy vibe, reminiscent of the opening music to the television show “Halt and Catch Fire.” Muffled vocals soon creep into the mix before fading away again, like a thought that comes to mind and quickly moves on. This synth-driven intro builds up for almost a full minute before any sign of reggae music makes an appearance, but then the skanking keys kick in, quickly followed by a drum lick and the fat bass drop.  

The bass-heavy roots groove of this song, accentuated by the definitive drumming of Michael Caine, is juxtaposed by the soft vocals of Ian Gastl, essentially rapping with a vaguely dancehall cadence. Combined with the steady skank, “Love is Medicine” will no doubt have Tatanka fans bobbing heads and thrusting fists into the air as the hottest reggae songs do.

A distinct feature of this song is the use of Autotune to deliver the chorus. While voice modulation has become prevalent in today’s Jamaican reggae, notably used by artists such as Popcaan and Busy Signal, many roots purists find it an unwelcome addition. Nevertheless, it works really well within the context of this song, transforming keyboardist Andrew Maloney’s singing into another instrument, like a distorted horn, adding to the psychedelic aspect.   

From out of the chorus, Tatanka guitarist Nate Adams launches into a very pleasing passage of “stickies,” the staccato guitar notes commonly found in old roots reggae music, which were adopted from guitar picking techniques of the old-time country artists vastly popular in Jamaica in the 50s and 60s. These provide further texture and bring more of that classic reggae sound to the mix.

Lyrically, Gastl sings to his love interest, beseeching her to understand that his musical calling demands he leave her for the road. This particular refrain gets the adrenaline flowing, where, with a touch of braggadocio, he describes how making bad-ass reggae music fulfills his soul:

I just need my space
Head down to my place
Elevate my mind
Turn up the bass
Gonna make it shake
From Denver to JA
Tatanka world wide
Make no mistake

Tatanka, together with E.N Young, have seamlessly melded components of modern music with old school roots, creating a rich blend of sonic duckunoo to please the reggae massive. “Love Is Medicine” will be available on all major outlets at midnight tonight.


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Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.

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