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What I’m Drinking To #1: Vinyl Review: Mala – Mala In Cuba.

In this feature bartender and music enthusiast Nick Latham attempts to match albums across all media and time with it’s perfect drinking companion. Nick can often be found preparing delightful drinks at the Goldbrick House Cocktail & Champagne Bar, dancing like a loony at Mr Wolf’s or scouring Bristol’s many charity & second hand record shops for golden oldies and cheesy compilations.

What I’m currently drinking to is the latest Mala release Mala In Cuba on vinyl. For his newest record under Brownswood Recordings and Havana Cultura the DMZ dubstep legend travelled to Cuba with DJ & producer Gilles Peterson in a quest to combine Mala’s famed deep, resonant basslines with more than just flickers of Cuban soul, jazz and stereotypical drum beats. If that doesn’t want to make you reach for the rum bottle on your shelf, I don’t know what will.

Seeing it on the shelf of Idle Hands, Bristol after listening to it digitally was enough to make me impulse buy the vinyl copy yet I was left disappointed at the lack of flow in the record as one would expect from a regular vinyl release. That was before I looked at it in context. Yes, the tracks involved individually are all brilliant to any dubstep fan and admired by percussionists who enjoy music of a Cuban persuasion. However Mala In Cuba is simply that, it is this artist’s view into what he has seen, and more specifically, heard in his journey to a foreign land. Not dissimilar in some senses to French-Vietnamese producer Onra on his quest to Vietnam to create Chinoiseries (an album created using samples from Chinese vinyl he had bought on a trip to Vietnam) Mala utilises the sounds he hasn’t created himself to the very top of their potential whilst using his unique producing ability to add his own experiences and teachings of a country to the music that forms it’s heart and soul. This heart and soul is the bare bones to every track on this album, lacing it with what he sees as almost an appropriate tribute to each sample, the best way he can. Changuito is the track that amalgamates these two styles the best. The clanging and insatiably footapping beat is met with some classic DMZ bass that leaves you nodding your head along too like a serious dub head. Ghost is also deep and dark dubstep with pounding (yet not overpowering) Cuban rhythms and The Tourist brings a more Buena Vista Social Club sound to the unique yet diverse record.

The omission of the track Introduction from the vinyl release is most perplexing. The track is a brilliant way of weaning the listener into what Mala is trying to achieve from this record. Mulata (normally track two) does cover for this in some ways but not as well as Introduction does. It is most welcoming, brilliant and almost cult as the off cut vocal samples show. Another flaw for a vinyl listener is the abrupt end to each track. Being a dubstep release you can’t blame Mala for making this album easy to use for DJs, yet for the fact so much time, effort and care was spent utilising the samples to the maximum of a producer of Mala’s calibre’s potential, you’d hope this release had more of an ‘album’ feel.

If we’re talking about a drink to match Mala In Cuba to, your author went for a typical Rum and Ginger Beer. Although rum seems like an obvious choice for a dubstep release, the fact its served straight with a slice of squeezed lime and a mixer gives a shout to Mala’s roots as his original music would have been played at nights in South London and on pirate radio. Have it with a particularly spicy ginger beer like Fentiman’s or Gosling’s Stormy to make your experience feel a little more discerning than a night out in Brixton or Croydon. For the rum choose a nice affordable golden. Your author had the Bajan ‘Cockspur’ but Appleton VX wouldn’t go down a miss.

A Classic Rum & Ginger Beer

2 Parts Golden Rum
6 Parts Ginger Beer

Build and serve over cubed ice with plenty of fresh lime wedges.

(For the drink recipes I will try to stick to ‘parts’ as a unit of measurement to keep the drinks simple to enjoy at home with the record. A wise bartender friend of mine said of ‘parts’ that they could be anything you find at home, be it a thimble, an egg cup or an old boot.)

Imbibe responsibly and enjoy the tunes!

About The Author

Bartender and History & Politics graduate from West London, now residing in Bristol. Writes articles on matching drinks to albums across all media from golden oldies to the latest releases.

Number of Entries : 8