Earthy-sounding singer-deejay Garfield Spence AKA Konshens has released albums in Japan and Europe (as part of the duo Sojah, with his brother Delus), but on a wider international level his career has been built on singles. Many of these are collected on official global debut Mental Maintenance – a contender for one of the strongest releases of early 2012.
The title refers to self-confessed mood swings sufferer Konshens’ concept of a song for every emotion and situation. In lesser hands this could have resulted in a sprawling mess yet, despite many different producers on board, everything flows.
Acoustic opener World Citizen asks that people come together and “put a stop to the segregation”. Musical segregation is something Konshens has little time for: hip hop, rock, dancehall, pop, roots reggae and RnB are all assimilated in his choice of rhythms and deliveries. The album’s opening is solid enough but, when the bass drops on the cocksure-yet-frustrated-sounding Simple Song’s Niko Browne-produced Set It Off rhythm, a gold standard is set and maintained.
Konshen’s love of the dance is represented by the furious strings of the Freeze-produced Bounce and the Ward 21-helmed, soundclash-adaptable Do Sum’n. But the deejay also turns soulful and bluesy roots singer for escapist anthem (and Konshen’s favourite track) Pop in My Headphones, and Home Wrecker, which recalls a pre-Black Uhuru Michael Rose.
A remix of 2008’s anti-‘rentadread’ salvo Rasta Imposter samples Duke Reid and Freddie McKay’s Love is a Treasure and features Sizzla, Tarrus Riley (in return for the non-Rasta Konshens guesting on 2009’s Good Girl Gone Bad) and Riley’s rapper brother Wrath. ‘Badmind comes from within’ hit The Realest Song also gets remixed – with a guest turn from granular dancehall veteran Bounty Killer.
Unusually for any modern reggae album, not one track deserves to be skipped. Even the skits have an emotional dimension for increased staying power. Such is this album’s strength that the only possible reason for ignoring it is that frontline reggae listeners might have a lot of it already. Even then it is purchase-worthy, while for newcomers it is nothing short of essential.