Tag Archives: Funk

The Final Beginning – SONIC FLARE – 2012


When I listen to some of my favourite musicians’ discographies in chronological order, the one thing that’s most apparent while album hopping is a consistent trend towards maturity. It holds true even during some catastrophic missteps and bad decisions (St. Anger, anyone?). It’s the reason why most young musicians (myself included) are so insufferable. Listening to them is listening to them practice and compete­ rather than making music. Who wants to listen to someone learning how to speak? Rarely do we get a final, finished, teenage-rebellion-and-acne free act releasing its debut album.

Excellent cover. Except the dick in the distance.

Sonic Flare is promising precisely for this reason. One listen and you intuitively know that the people playing here are older, and more experienced – and critically- more secure. I could immediately tell and sure enough, the band bio backed it up. It’s clear that most of the band members are individual, fully realized (if derivative) musical personalities, well versed in the nuances of structure and arrangement. So how does their debut album stack up?

Most young musicians are insufferable.

The sound can best be described a gentle variant of funk rock with a classic rock background. Makes sense? It’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but the instrumentalists have the confidence and skill to pull it off, especially the bass player. The songs come alive with his playful, funky approach and wrinkle free pocket with the drummer. “Beautiful World” is a genuinely danceable number with its thumpy chorus and jangly intro. The guitar playing is song centric, but not memorable. The solos could be more assertive and more than merely pleasant fillers. “Stay” is a good example; it’s far from the highlight of the song, but more on those lines would be welcome.

"Yes, Yes....I'll stay for the picture, but I really want to go <eyes turn> THERE."

The problems with this album are few, but they require close attention. Firstly, the singer is far from spot on. Too often the songs don’t reach their full potential because the vocals just don’t work for me. Sometimes, like on “I, Me, Myself”, they hurt the song. I get the whole raw and untrained charisma thing, and I could hear elements of that in his singing. But I think the vocals need more refining for a band that sounds this airy; they also need to be mixed lower to give more breathing space to the solid rhythm section. He doesn’t fit. The second problem is that the music isn’t original at all. It’s very well executed, well produced and will probably we well received too, but progress this ain’t. More originality, that comes from picking up diverse influences would be awesome. This is – I think – one of the downsides of being from a band with older members. Their main influences are still somewhere in the 70′s and 80′s, making the overall sound a permutation of things I have already heard.

In the scheme of Indian rock, I suppose this is a good start. As a project started by working professionals in their off time, it’s really quite good. Weekend performances? Check. Being well-known local band? Check. But if Sonic Flare wants pan-Indian and perhaps international attention, some more fire in the belly would be much appreciated. This sounds somewhat right.

-El Bajista


Edounardo – MARCO RODI – 2006


Solo bass has been a quietly growing genre of music since Victor Wooten came along and stuck it to the establishment. Of course, at some level, it is inevitable. As long as people have existed, they have taken crazy ideas and tried to make them work. Many times, they fail miserably, like the Segway. But other ideas- like solo bass- are more sustainable, if not mainstream.

Marco Rodi is a solo bassist in Canada. He’s pretty damn good at it too. Check out his vids HERE and his website HERE. Edounardo (what does that mean?) happens to be his first solo bass album, recorded when he was pretty young. So how does it stand up?

It stands up well. This is clearly a musical album, intended to make people feel good, not have their jaws sweep the floor with technique. Often, the strummed parts are quite danceable too, like on the actually quite beautiful ‘Energetic Soustraction’. But that track is a bit of an exception. Most of the tracks are moody excursions into the tonal colors available on the electric bass, with a particular emphasis on the chiming harmonics made famous by Jaco Pastorius. Sample “Preparation” and “X-Ray Melody”, and the completely weird but wonderful passage at the end of “The Cruisade”.

The two big strengths that this guy has are enthusiasm and a desire to say **** you to all the detractors of the electric bass. I personally think, such bass players should be more mainstream, and be contributing this sort of thing to mainstream music i.e. rock and pop bands. Because – and you should all know this – the bass is capable of some pretty bloody gorgeous sounds, even without any electro-trickery involved. I’ve only been playing for a couple of years, and I can attest to that fact. As always, it only requires an individual with sufficient reserves of balls and shamelessness to put such a thing forward. In Canada, here’s our man.

This is clearly a musical album, intended to make people feel good, not have their jaws sweep the floor with technique

Faults? Firstly, any instrumental album done on only one instrument beginning to end (even Piano albums, methinks), are hard to swallow in one go. The reason is that while the person playing the instrument might have a lot to say, there are only a limited number of timbres that can be coaxed out of every instrument. Granted, the electric bass has more of a variety than most instruments (percussive, chiming, pinging, choral, melodic, and of course, bass), but still, it would be hard to hold the attention of non-bass n00bs. Secondly, the grooving is not perfect, in the sense of being studio ready. That said, he makes up for it in terms of a certain joie de vivre, if you will.

Yes. He is better than you. No, you can't do this.

That said, considering the young age at which Rodi recorded this (he is 24), it is a DAMN good effort. I played it to a friend of mine who is as interested in instrumental music as Paris Hilton is in quantum physics. This was able to hold his attention for quite a while. From the tribal percussion and moodiness on “The Boat”, to the little pings and ticks and things on “Old Bluesy”, Rodi has clearly left no stone unturned to ensure that the limitations of single instrument albums are overcome. This is inspiring stuff. I’m surely going to do something similar.

And you know what the best – THE best- thing about this? There is no wank-assery in sight. Not for miles. It’s proper songs with structure. Sure, it will not appeal to the majority to your Lady Gaga loving people, but who wants that?

What is the value of such an album? I think it’s important for young musicians who sit in a room and woodshed away to get out and jam as much as possible and be mad about what we are doing. It is critical. Marco is 24 and an engineering student. Wrap that around your head, Mr.-I’m-too-busy-to-practice.  Enjoy this, feel inspired and miserable at the same time. This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More BASS/SOLO BASS reviews HERE.

 


Kali’s Son – JONAS HELLBORG feat. NILADRI KUMAR and SELVAGANESH – 2005


Our Indian music is fantastic. All of you should know that. It’s more complex than the most complex non-Indian music can hope to be, both in terms of melody and rhythm. Unfortunately, harmony is a concept quite alien to hardcore Indian classical musicians. It is this ‘void’ that is filled up by enlisting western instrumentalists for fusion projects.

Who are these two men?

And when it comes to western musicians eager to explore Indian classical music, they don’t come more adventurous than Bassist Mr.Jonas Hellborg. It’s an ideal combination too, isn’t it? The bass is a fantastic rhythmic and harmonic instrument which can seamlessly incorporate itself into an Indian musical sensibility, especially with lead instruments like the Sitar.

So lets cut to the chase. Kali’s Son is a bass-‘zitar’ collaboration between Hellborg and desi Sitar phenom Niladri Kumar. And how do they sound? Well, Hellborg’s sound – I can tell by the power of deduction – is of an acoustic bass plugged in. It’s a unique sound, hollow and steely, but still fulfilling. It works well for soloing too, and is a guttaral contrast to Kumar’s distortion-d soloing.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if an electric sitar with distortion is a contentious issue, but I think it should be. With the Zitar being a thin stringed instrument like the guitar, a lot of Kumar’s soloing ends up sounding  like Indian classical played on a mandolin or an electric guitar with distortion. It’s fantastic, but even a discerning listener might not notice the difference at first. I didn’t.

If you ask about the songs, um….they are not really songs. They are improvisations between Hellborg, Kumar and Selvaganesh’s astonishing kanjira. The range of percussive sounds he gets from the drum is amazing. It’s way more than most drummers can manage with a million pieces. Hellborg is also exceptional, deftly combining  funk, Hindustani, and god knows what else and chanelling it through that exceptional singing like proto-upright tone. “Shri Shri Vikkuji” has him at his high frequency best. Also, check out the totally psychedelic backmasked bass goodness on “Plastic Puja”. Freaking innovative. And inspiring. I’d never thought of him as a virtuoso before, but I believe he has breached that threshold with this album. His furious rhythm towards the end of “Brightness” is, I think, especially difficult to execute.  

Hellborg is the star. Undoubtedly.

“Kalighat” is a breath of fresh air, in that its light and happy sounding compared to the emotionally intense tracks elsewhere. However, the bass solo is aboslutely epic. This maybe a showcase album for Niladri Kumar, but Hellborg is the star. Undoubtedly.

RAWWWWWK!

This is a highly recommended album for all musos. God here for some smoking instrumental jams (though I miss the presence of a kanjira­ solo or two) and inspirational in terms of the possibilities of the acoustic bass and the sitar (argh, Zitar). This sounds right.

- El Bajista

More JONAS HELLBORG reviews HERE.

More FUSION reviews HERE.

SHARE THIS REVIEW, PEOPLE! –> Share





Dynamite – JAMIROQUAI – 2005


Warning: This here music is funky shit.

I’d never been a fan of Jamiroquai, partly because it seemed to be a vehicle for the lead singer’s ego (and the matching hat) and partly because that is a stupid try-too-hard name for a band…..any band.

Egomaniac……Jamiroquai is a band, not a solo project.

However, the music is unique. It’s basically a hybrid of Funk ,Jazz and Electronica packaged in a shiny pop packaging. Cynical? I’m not sure, ’cause the music is too damn good to be cynical. Yes, half the lyrics are often vapid, while the other half are about environmentalism, but the grooves are just so tight and danceable so as to preclude any illusions of it being manufactured.

Sample the first track “Feels like it should”. That’s a ruthless hunk of electro-dance-pop goodness, guaranteed to get thy booty moving. And while there are mis-steps on the way, it is quite remarkable that some 15 years after the first album, this band continues to put out funky, danceable music thats unique in the current pop landscape. Kudos.

As you would expect for such a band, the central instrument in Jamiroquai music is the electric bass. And their bassists have always been at the heart of Jamiroquai music. The multiple bassists on this album have managed electro-thump on “Electric Mistress” and “Feels like it should”. But they have also managed a slightly string-noise laden sound on some songs, notably “Dynamite” . Another significant element is the jazz. It ensures that the chord-changes sound nothing like the common-as-turds changes on electro-pop stuff like Kesha or the three chord ‘punk’ stuff that seems to relentlessly ruin conceptions of real music on the air these days. I certainly hope that Jamiroquai are more influential in the long run than that Fell Out of the Boy band, or whatever that is. Sadly, I’m pretty sure they won’t.  

Warning: This here is funky shit.

I'm not sure whether the members in this picture are the current members 'cause you know, I have never seem 'em.

The best tune on the album is undoubtedly “Don’t Give Hate A Chance”. It’s very danceable, and what a bassline! Also “Starchild”, which is driven by the bass and the ridiculously funky riffing of the Clavinet, is worth a listen.

Flaws? I do think lead singer Jay Kay could try, after so many years in the spotlight, to NOT sing like Stevie Wonder. He’s managed to escape ridicule so far on that account, but I do implore him to just try and step out of that rut. Also, there are some pretty weak tracks in “Black Devil Car” and “Talulah”. Avoidable.

In the final stretch of tallying points, however, this album continues to be from a band that defies categorization in mainstream music. Just check out some of their older hits, and you will see how their chord changes, vocal melodies and jazzy influences give them a space no other band occupies. For that reason alone, Jamiroquai deserves praise. This sounds right.

 - El Bajista

For more JAMIROQUAI reviews, go HERE.

For more FUNK/FUNK ROCK reviews, go HERE.

SHARE THIS REVIEW, PEOPLE! –> Share





Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 477 other followers

%d bloggers like this: