In Iran, kids aren’t supposed to play outside during twilight. It’s “the hour of two lights”: the end of day and beginning of night, when things aren’t quite settled. Likewise, on The Hour of Two Lights, you can’t tell if the music’s coming or going. It’s definitely serious play for two multiculti British pioneers—Terry Hall (Specials) and Mushtaq (Fun-Da-Mental). The record capitalizes on London’s accidental diversity, involving Hebrew vocalists, a blind Algerian rapper, the original “Pink Panther Theme” clarinetist, and a band of asylum-seeking Polish Gypsies. Hall and Mushtaq add melodies and rhythms to their musical grab bag like a band on the run.
They sound willfully motley, but it works. On “Ten Eleven,” Gypsy violins and scratchy reggae find accord in an upbeat riff, a perfect foil for Hall’s brooding voice. The music can meander: An opening muezzin call wails on mercilessly, and regardless of your religious affiliation, you pray for it to end. Mostly, though, you’d never guess 90 percent of these musicians had never been inside a recording studio. As the Gypsies know, when nothing else is secure, we might as well take refuge in good vibrations.