As the keys player for world-beat collective Antibalas, Victor Axelrod, aka Ticklah, has had plenty of sonic space to hone his electric piano, organ, clavinet and synthesizer skills. On Ticklah vs. Axelrod, he channels his energy into deep dub territory. Most of the tracks, including the leisurely, dreamy opener, “Two Face,” hew closely to the standard contemporary dub formula—thick reggae beats and rhythms enhanced with electronic elements, including synthesizer and clavinet—but Axelrod reveals a few surprises.
Enlisting the vocal services of R&B singer Mayra Vega and reggae artists Mikey General and Rob Symeonn, Axelrod produces a couple Latin-flavored, Spanish-lyric tracks—“Mi Sonsito” and a cover of Eddie Palmieri’s “Si Hecho Palante” (both featuring Vega)—as well as the old-school reggae track “Pork Eater” (featuring Symeonn) and the classic dub sound of the King Tubby-esque “Answer Me.” Throughout the album, the keyboard flourishes are subtle and textural, as Axelrod deploys a lighter touch than many artists in the dub universe, including the most recent work by legend Lee Scratch Perry.
Ticklah vs. Axelrod may not break any new ground, but it’s a solid addition to any dub collection and will certainly be of interest to Antibalas and reggae fans.