Boomkat Product Review:
First retrospective of The Rootsman, a key player in ’90s dub soundsystem circles, regarded for his dilated fusions of Jamaican pressure with Middle Eastern and African inspirations, and collabs with Muslimgauze.
Formatively a punk with State Oppression in the early ‘80s, who came to man the counter of Bradford’s Roots Record Shop by the ‘90s, John Bolloten aka The Rootsman carved out a singular sound across dozens of releases thru his Third Eye Music label until the early ‘00s. Akuphone serve a necessary retrospective of The Rootsman’s bassbin adventures focusing on a prolific period with highlights of four records produced 1996-98 for Third Eye Music, including jams with Celtarabia, and in the Pachakuti duo with Russ Disciples. The £10 draw and dog-on-a-string vibe is high on this one, casting us back to another era entirely when said bag and a handful of Red Stripe would keep us stepping in front of the system all night.
Meshing aspects of roots reggae, UK steppers, and digi-dub with the abundant cultural flavours local to Bradford, The Rootsman’s sound was heavily symptomatic of ‘90s “eclecticism”, but also done with a level of authenticity and verve that swerved dilettantism. The first three tracks, taken from ‘Into The Light’ (1996) highlight a killer mix of gloomy Yorkshire goth synths with subcontinental drums, dub proper, and flying UK steppers of the sort we used to catch at Subdub, while the trio off ’52 Days from Timbuktu’ betray stronger Mid-East influence paralleling his work with Muslimgauze. The cuts with Celtarabia from ‘Union of Souls’ plunge to more etheric zones with a big highlight in ‘Ancient Vibrations’, and J Shaka alum Russ Disciples pushes that vibe deeper on highlights of their Pachakuti album ‘Distant Voices’.