I first heard Fat Freddy's Drop, a New Zealand sextet, by chance live at the Big Chill festival this past summer and was immediately hooked on their smooth dubbed out blend of jazzy improvisation, funky song craft and authentic stage presence. Though a few thousand miles removed from reggae's native sands, Fat Freddy's Drop is still as genuine and jammin' as island music gets. True to the dub reggae sound of pioneers like Mad Professor and King Tubby, the central player of the group is the selector, the man on the mixing board and FXâ€”in this case DJ Fitchie (aka Chris Faimumu). But where Fitchie's laidback beat programming, towering layers of echo, atmospherics and large south pacific visage might be enough to fill any space alone, the full band comprised of Toby Laing on trumpet, Joe Linsay (aka Ho Pepa), Warrent Maxwell (aka Fulla Flash) on sax, Tehimana Kerr (aka Jetlag Johnson) on guitar, Iain Gordon (aka Dobie Blaze) on keys and Joe Dukie on vocals creates some of the fattest, richest, most soulful wall of sound these ears have ever enjoyed.
When I got back from the festival I scoured the internet and record stores from Berlin to London to New York trying to track down all their output. Most were vinyl only and rather rare even from overseas vendors. Their first official album available worldwide, "Based on a True Story" is a great collection of new soon-to-be classics, remakes of rare tunes and a glimpse into their very live jamming style and slick production savvy. This is quite possibly the best underrated album of the year in my book.