They’re ripping in one track, gentle in another. The start of a harmony in “Keep On Fighting,” the conclusion of a verse in “Moses.” These are the strings in Jonathan Emile’s new album Spaces-in-Between, and they’re as much the bedrock of every beat the record contains as the Emile’s own vocal is. Spaces-in-Between is a reggae LP rooted more in progressive experimentation than it is tradition and genre worship, and anyone who has an ear for the lush melodicism that lies on the left side of the mainstream music pulse would be wise to give it a listen this February.
None of the songs on this record feel like filler, but the tracks “Try a Likkle More,” “Rock & Come Over” and “Savanna” sound the most heartfelt of any here. Emile’s voice is the yin to every instrumentally dexterous rhythm’s yang in these songs, and although they’re about as far away from a black and white model as you can get on paper, the percussive underpinning is cohesive from one composition to the next. Time and thought must have gone into making all of the minute details in this LP perfect, and in all actuality, there aren’t many reggae albums that are sporting this kind of intricacy in 2020.
“Babylon Is Falling – 3.0,” “Emptiness” and “Keep On Fighting” probably could have benefited from a little more production polish than they were ultimately afforded, but it’s an excusable flaw that doesn’t really have too big an effect on the material itself. I think that, in the grander scheme of things, grittiness is the only point of indulgence on Spaces-in-Between; had there not been just a bit too much of an edge of these tracks, the cosmetic finish created by the mixing here would have been as close to perfect as it gets in this realm of popular music.
I fell in love with Jonathan Emile’s vocal right out of the gate in “Canopy,” the powerful single “Try a Likkle More” and “Liberation (with Chanda T. Holmes),” and in the future I would really love for there to be just a little more emphasis on his range, especially with content so clearly as ambitious in structure as all of this is. He has a way with words that could melt ice from across the room, and amidst the artificiality of western pop, R&B and eclectic music, that’s nothing to scoff at by any measure.
It’s not without a couple of minor issues that could be avoided in upcoming endeavors, but for alternative reggae fans who need a hot fix this season, Jonathan Emile’s Spaces-in-Between is an intriguing listen pleasing to both the ears and the mind, even after repeat listens. Emile is still in the process of becoming the artist that he can be when he’s firing on all cylinders, but when taking into account the short amount of time he’s been in the spotlight, his is an ascent that deserves to be taken very seriously. He’s going places, and this latest release is strong evidence supporting as much.