Since the release of his 2004 debut, Shake off the dust...ARISE and the phenomenal success of last year's Live At Stubb's, Matisyahu has continued to bring his uncanny, electrifying fusion of orthodox Judaism and classic reggae music to you with an incessant touring schedule and unbelievable energy. Now, Matisyahu and the band bring you their sophomore studio album, YOUTH.
Youth is a compelling mix of ancient and modern sounds and ideas. The propulsive title track, with its rallying cry "youth is the engine of the world," draws upon Matisyahu's studies of Chabad Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn - as well as his own tumultuous past.
Born in West Chester, PA and raised in White Plains, NY, the young man formerly known as Matthew Miller would undertake a monumental odyssey before discovering his path - and voice - as Matisyahu (the Hebrew equivalent of "Matthew," and the name he became known by when he became observant). Via adventures in Colorado, Israel, Oregon, and New York City, he not only heard a profound spiritual calling, but also discerned a revolutionary way to share his discoveries and reflections, via the reggae and hip-hop sounds that had long been an integral part of his day-to-day soundtrack.
On Youth, Matisyahu explores his musical universe. Produced by legendary reggae and dub producer Bill Laswell, with additional production by Jimmy Douglass and Ill Factor. The character of the album's thirteen new songs span a wide gamut. From the stark acoustic guitar driven track "What I'm Fighting For" to the syncopated African rhythms of "Ancient Lullabye" to the bumping beats, burbling bass, and of "Jerusalem," YOUTH is definitely a creative step forward for the band, one they are excited to bring to their audiences.
"Lyrically, I wanted to expand on ideas that I touched upon on the first album, to get deeper into those things, to get to the essence," he adds of the aesthetic leap forward. "Members of the band wrote the music together, different people brought different things to the table, and everyone contributed creatively." Out of this confluence of intuitive musical interaction (honed via months of non-stop touring), and new ideas waiting to finally be given voice, the heightened dynamics of Youth sprang forth.
"When we made the Live At Stubb's album, we had been touring for over a year and a half, and we really wanted to capture the energy from our live show."
And, in turn, making that document allowed the band to turn their attentions more fully to writing and fine-tuning Youth. "After playing so many shows, we got to shift our focus, artistically, and go into the studio and do overdubs and really paint with all types of colors.
"Bill has an almost Zen-like approach," observes Matisyahu. "He doesn't make you go back and do things over and over again. He does, however, have a great sense, when you're all finished playing, whether that take is 'the one' or not. You get the sense that he really knows what he's doing, but at the same time, he leaves enough space for the creative process to happen."
Regardless of religious affiliation, most artists will tell you that the creative force is special type of divinity that moves through them.
Matisyahu simply seeks to serve as a conduit for the messages of peace and unity that flow through him, to improve the world the world by sharing his music, and without letting ego or worldly desires interfere in that communication. "That's what I'm aiming for," he admits. "I don't think I've fully gotten there, but that's the goal." And with Youth, he makes a quantum leap closer to attaining it.