Korean Reggae band NST & The Soul Sauce has released a new album of a very interesting title Back When Tigers Smoked. While in Korea this phrase just means “a very long time ago,” after listening to all the tracks, this title gave me a special image of a very pristine, ancient era. In that time, all the creatures might peacefully get together and lead a life of blissful singing and dancing together.
The overall mood throughout the album of 12 tracks is “happiness.” The melody, instrumentals, and lyrics are consistently bright and warm whether the tempo is fast or easy-going. They sing happiness of life and love, and how the nature and things it gives are precious. Various instruments of experienced, skillful musicians give a rich harmony, which has an obvious identity in reggae but embraces diverse genres like jazz or Korean traditional music. In “Red Tiger,” which features Korean traditional music, the melodic layer is so Korean-traditional, but it naturally melts into the genre of reggae. The dub track “Jorang Horse” is well spiced with electronic effects, but doesn’t go too far over the range of reggae.
The music of Back When Tigers Smoked is organic. I could feel relaxing bird song, stream flow and sweet breezes. However, the band is not just naively drunk with everything-is-happy day dreaming. They bring up social issues in the jolly rhythm of reggae music like the tracks “Farmer’s Funk” or “Dawn is Breaking.” Likewise, joy of life, grim social problems, human beings, animals, and all the different genres of music are all beautifully mixing together in their musical paradise. We sadly just dream of the utopia in our hectic real life, but luckily we can get a taste of it by music of Back When Tigers Smoked.