Category: electronic funk

 

Born in the early 70s, the Pasadena, CA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer/songwriter and producer Damon Garrett Riddick, best known as JOVM mainstay Dam-Funk came of age during the heyday of acts like Uncle Jamm’s Army and Egyptian Lover, two of the area’s pioneers of electro hip-hop and what would become West Coast hip-hop — and of course, the legendary Prince.

Riddick’s parents encouraged and nurtured his interest in music: he learned drums and then drum machine. A chance encounter led to an apprenticeship under funk songwriter/producer Leon Sylvers III, and by the mid-90s, the height of West Coast, G-funk hip-hop, Riddick was a highly-sought, local session musician, playing on tracks by Mack 10 and MC Eiht. “Everybody was trying to do the live instrumentation thing, so then you got cats like me playing on records,” Dam explained on his Stones Throw Records artist bio.

Sideman status wasn’t enough for him though. While watching gold plaques be handed out to everyone but him, Riddick decided that it was time to go “full-funk” and make a do-or-die try to become an artist on his own terms. In 2006, he and a few friends launched the popular Funkmosphere party. Around then, the Pasadena-born, Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer/songwriter and producer caught the attention of Stones Throw Records. Unsurprisingly, the label related to Riddick’s insistence that funk needed to be saved from cartoonish and devilish caricature — and that funk was a way of life.

Stones Throw Records released his two full-length albums — 2009’s Toeachizown and 2015’s Invite the Light, a compilation of his early production, 2010’s Adolescent Funk. 2013 was a big year for the Pasadena-born, Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay — his collaboration with Steve Arrington Higher was released that year, and he teamed up with Snoop Dogg in the funk and hip-hop act 7 Days of Funk, who also released their debut album that year. Each of those early releases helped to establish Dam-Funk’s signature sound and aesthetic — synth-based funk that draws from G-Funk era hip-hop and 80s synth funk. However, Riddick has spent the past couple of years experimenting with the warmer sides of deep house and techno with material released through his own imprint Glydezone Recordings while spending time DJ’ing, and working on remixes and mixes.

Slated for a May 17, 2019 release through his own label, Dam-Funk’s forthcoming effort STFU II reportedly is a gradual return to his old-school funk roots while serving as a both a follow up to last year’s Architecture II EP and along-awaited sequel to 2015’s free, all-instrumental EP STFU. Continuing in the vein of its sonic predecessor, the EP’s first track, the strutting EP closer “On Code” clocks in at just under seven minutes and is centered by thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of arpeggiated bass synths and keytar and atmospheric electronics. And although the material is lovingly indebted to the period that influenced it, the song possesses a subtle cosmic glow — all while reminding the listener of Dam-Funk’s innate melodicism.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Audio: Tame Impala and Theophilus London Team Up on Two Synth Funk Bangers

Led by singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind Kevin Parker, the Melbourne, Australia-based psych pop act Tame Impala received international attention with the release of their first two albums, 2011’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism. Interestingly, 2015’s Currents was centered around some of the most emotionally direct material he had written to date while expanding upon the sound that first caught attention with the material sonically drawing from synth pop, prog rock, R&B and psych pop to create a nuanced, textured and difficult to pigeonhole sound. 

Theophilus London is a Trinidad and Tobago-born, Brooklyn-based emcee, singer/songwriter and producer, who first emerged into the national and international scene with his 2011 debut EP Lovers Holiday, which found the Brooklyn-based emcee/singer/songwriter and producer collaborating with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin, Glasser and Solange Knowles and his full-length debut 2011’s Timez are Weird These Days. Both of those early efforts quickly established London’s crowd-pleasing, genre-mashing sound and approach, which draws from soul, pop, post-punk, electro-pop, electro R&B, hip-hop and R&B — and that shouldn’t be surprising as London has publicly cited Michael Jackson, Prince, Kraftwerk and The Smiths as influences on his work.  2013’s sophomore effort VIBES found London collaborating with Jesse Boykins III and Kanye West, who was the album’s executive producer — and from album single “Tribe,” the album’s material further cemented London’s reputation for club-banging, synth pop-influenced hip-hop. 

So in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that both genre-defying artists have collaborated together in a project informally dubbed Theo Impala, which has already released two singles — the first single, the swaggering “Whiplash” is a thorough and seamless amalgamation of their sound and approach, as it features London spitting fiery bars over layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats and Parker’s ethereal backing vocals singing a sugary pop-meets-soul melody. In some way, the song recalls 80s hip-hop, 80s synth soul, Crime Cutz-era Holy Ghost! and Dam-Funk among others. The second track is a cover Steve Monite’s Nigerian boogie hit “Only You” and while their cover is somewhat straightforward, it manages to possess a contemporary production sheen that gives the song a retro-futuristic thump. 

Like countless other musicians, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Knox White relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a music career — and to support himself, White began working as a bartender. In a serendipitous turn of fate, Lionel Ritchie was one of his regulars, and after some time, Ritchie became a kind of mentor to the aspiring musician, giving advice and sharing stories about being on the road. The one thing that struck a deep chord with White was when Ritchie told him “Don’t sell your soul to the devil to get success in the music business. Stay humble and treat everyone like they are your friend.” On another night, Paul McCartney stopped by, and McCartney told him stories about The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Towards the end of the night, McCartney told him that a musician with an incredible live show is a musician with super powers, and the legendary Beatle told him, “Get amazing first, and everything else will fall into place.”

Eventually, White relocated to New Orleans, arguably one of the country’s richest musical environments — and unsurprisingly, he immersed himself in the city’s music scene, playing everything from gospel to jazz; in fact, as the story goes, White was immediately hired to play guitar at the Household of Faith Church, playing alongside some incredibly accomplished musicians, who took him under his wing, introduced him to other musicians, which lead to ton of gigs.  He found himself playing at clubs across the city playing and mastering gospel, blues, calypso, jazz and contemporary fare until the early morning. And naturally, while exhausting, White felt reinvigorated, returned to Los Angeles, where he began collaborating with producer Josh Legg, best known as Goldroom, and began writing fusing the skills and knowledge he gained while in the Crescent City and his influences — Prince, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Tame Impala.

White’s self-titled, debut EP is slated for release in July, and the EP’s first single “You’ve Been My Girl” is a sleek and slickly produced track that owes a tremendous debt to 80s synth funk  (i.e., Oran “Juice” Jones‘ “The Rain,” Cherelle’s “Saturday Love” and others) and Prince, thanks to some impressive guitar pyrotechnics throughout; but interestingly the song finds the narrator calling out a love interest for being indecisive and playing with his emotions. Certainly, we’ve all been there before.

 

New Audio: Finnish Pop Trio Beverly Girl Returns with a Sleek and Sultry Cover of 80s Hit

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past year or so, you may recall that with the release of “Contagious” the Helsinki, Finland-based trio  Beverly Girl received national and international attention for a 80s-inspired synth funk/electro pop/electro pop/R&B sound reminiscent of I Feel For You-era Chaka Khan, Cherrelle, The Gap Band, Cameo, Atlantic Starr and a lengthy list of others, but with a highly contemporary take that brings the likes of  Rush Midnight, St. Lucia, Dam-Funk and others to mind.

Interestingly, the Finnish trio’s latest single is a cover of Millie Scott’s “Automatic,”  and while their version is fairly straightforward, retaining the original’s swooning sultriness, it possesses a heftier bass line and sharper, arpeggiated synths, all of which will further the act’s growing reputation for crafting sleek, dance floor friendly tunes. 

New Video: Introducing the Retro-Futuristic Synth Funk Sounds and Visuals of The Black Seeds’ “Freakin'”

Led by primary lyricists and co-frontman Barnaby Weir and Daniel Weetman and featuring Jarney Murphy, Nigel Patterson, Ned Negate, along Francis Harawira, Barrett Hocking, Lucien Johnson and Matt Benton, the Wellington, New Zealand-based funk and dub outfit The Black Seeds can trace their origins back to 1998, and since their formation, the act has developed a reputation for music that thematically may express different things based on the songwriter, focusing on personal triumphs and failures, relationships both good and bad, as well as the personal insights and experiences of the artists involved — while being under-pinned with an underlying message of positivity and optimism, pairing that optimism and positivity with funky, dance floor friendly grooves. And as a result, the act has developed themselves as one of their homeland’s finest acts; in fact, the act has several multi-platinum selling albums in their homeland, and a critically applauded live show that they’ve taken across the world, developing a foothold in Europe and North America. 

After spending several years with an intense and very busy touring schedule that included the act playing some of the world’s largest festivals, the members of the New Zealand spent the past year or so working on their soon-to-be released effort Fabric, which was recorded at acclaimed producer/engineer and long-time collaborator Lee Prebble’s Wellington-based studio The Surgery. And although the album will further the act’s long-held reputation for pairing funky grooves with positive messages, the album will also find the band gentle expanding upon the funk, Afrobeat, soul and dub-based grooves; in fact, “Freakin,'” the album’s latest single finds the band playing the slick, 80s-inspired synth funk that reminds me of both the genre’s pioneers — i.e., The Gap Band, Cherrelle, Prince and others, as well as contemporary practitioners such as 7 Days of Funk, Blood Orange, Rene Lopez, and others, complete with a two step worthy stomp. 

Produced by Owen Watts and directed by Mark Russell, the recently released video employs some pitch perfect retro-futuristic graphics and clothing, while featuring a soul train line and breakdancers — because well, of fucking course. The only thing the video is missing is a dude with a boombox. 

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past 12-15 months or so, you’ve likely come across a couple of posts on the Brampton, ON-born, Toronto, ON-based DJ, violinist, singer/songwriter and indie pop artist Maya Killtron. And as you may recall, Killtron first came to attention both nationally and Stateside with the 2012 release of her debut EP Hipster/Gangsta, and as a result of the attention she received, Killtron wound up making the rounds across the North American festival circuit with stops Miami’s Winter Music ConferencePride TorontoThe Halifax Jazz Festival and CMJ. And adding to a growing profile, her collaboration with NYC-based production duo Love Taps “Back For More” received attention from the likes of Stereogum and Huffington Post for a sound that meshed moomba and R&B – and for visuals that showcased a sadly bygone NYC. Additionally, Smalltown DJs, The Slow WavesEyes Everywhere, Brothers In Arms and City Kid Soul have all have remixed “Back For More” — with the City Kid Soul remix being named in the Top 5 at Toronto’s Bestival.

Bad Decisions,” which I wrote about while in Amsterdam, The Netherlands earlier this year, was a written as a review of some of Killton’s best and worst decisions when it came to affairs of the heart paired with a sound that nodded at 80s synth funk and early 80s disco in a fashion reminiscent of JOVM mainstay act Escort; in fact, that shouldn’t be surprising as Killtron explained in an email to me,  “With ‘Bad Decisions,’ as well as my first single ‘Never Dance Alone,’ I wanted to pay tribute to; but not copy my heroes — Teena Marie, Prince, and The Gap Band.”

“Whiplash,” the third and latest single off Killtron’s Never Dance Alone EP is influenced by a childhood memory of a young Killtron listening to Michael Jackson‘s “PYT‘ for the very first time. “It was my driveway one July and my dad let me take our little radio outside while I washed the car, ” the Brampton-born, Toronto, ON-based pop artist explains. “‘PYT’ jumped out of the speakers and pretty much changed my ears forever. I never listened to the music the same way again.” Sonically, Killtron describes the song as having touches of elastic funk, roller rink dance, New Jack Swing and candy-coated pop paired with modern electronic production — and while that may be true, the song reminds me of Morris Day and The Time‘s “Jungle Love,” The Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” Cherelle‘s “Saturday Love,” Chaka Khan‘s “I Feel For You” and others as it features a sinuous bass line and a stomping groove; however, Killton’s latest single is at a much faster BPM than the sources that inspired it. Of course, much like the preceding singles, “Whiplash” is a love song — this time focusing on the sort of swooning love that comes about suddenly and feels so right, even if it’s just for the moment.

 

 

 

New Video: The Retro-futuristic 80s Visuals and Synth Funk Sounds of Aida’s “Let’s Ride”

Aida is a French-born singer/songwriter who with the release of “Let’s Ride” off her soon-to-be released debut EP, My Retrospective has received attention for a neon bright, funk sound reminiscent of 80s synth funk — i.e., The Whispers “And The Beat Goes On,” “It’s A Love Thing,” and “Rock Steady,” Tuxedo’s self-titled debut, Dam-Funk, Blood Orange, Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” and others; in fact, “Let’s Ride” which features a slick, dance floor-friendly electro funk production by Fresco Klüb consisting of cascading and propulsive arpeggio synth chords, enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats from Fresco Klüb paired with Aida’s effortlessly soulful and coquettish vocals.

Directed by Xavier Cantin-Lemieux of La Maison Bald Man, the recently released music video consists of pitch-perfect 80s-inspired visuals that cut between Aida going to a local bodega to make a phone call, where she watches a music video featuring three bathing suit-clad dancers on a studio-designed beach, and Aida riding her scooter through a Tron-like landscape; but as the video gets to the hook, it becomes darker, suggesting that Aida is an assassin on an important mission — and she does so with a cool, detached, efficiency.

Comprised of the Ann Arbor, MI-born, Los Angeles, CA-based soul singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne, arguably one of the most unheralded vocalists and singer/songwriters of the past decade; and Jake One, a Seattle, WA-born and based, Grammy nominated producer and artist, who was best known as part of the G-Unit, production team The Money Management Group, for collaborating with Brother Ali, Young Buck, De La Soul, M.O.P., Freeway, M.F. Doom, Atmosphere‘s Slug, Keak da Sneak and others, and for contributing tracks to the soundtracks of major motion pictures such as Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Gone Baby Gone, the electro funk act Tuxedo can trace its origins to around 2006 when Hawthorne and Jake One began exchanging mixtapes, which revealed that they had a mutual appreciation and love of classic funk and soul.  The duo quickly worked on and released three singles while both were working on separate solo projects — and those singles wound up on the duo’s 2015 self-titled debut, an effort, which I think was one of that year’s best party records.

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve last written about them — and that shouldn’t be surprising, as Hawthrone released his fourth, full-length effort Man About Town last year and opened for Hall and Oates during the duo’s U.S. tour and Jake One released the #prayerhandsemoji mixtape; but speaking for myself, I’m always in the need of some funk in my life and thankfully, the duo have returned with a three song EP, titled Fux with the Tux.. “Fux with the Tux,” the EP’s title track and opening track pairs Hawthrone’s vocals with a late 70s and early 80s synth funk production featuring squiggly arpeggio synth blasts, propulsive drum programming, a wobbling and tumbling low bass line, a chant-worthy and anthemic hook and a brief braggadocio-filled guest spot from Snoop Dogg. And while sounding as though it drew a some influence from Heatwave‘s “The Groove Line” – 12″ Disco Version,  Cherelle‘s “Saturday Love” feat. Alexander O’Neal and others. “Special” clearly continues on a similar vein as it’s incredibly dance floor friendly, while being a sultry come on. It’s the sort of song you’d want to play while dancing with that pretty young thing, you’ve wanted to get with for an entire summer or however long it’s been for you. Completing the three song set, “July” is a slow-burning and silky smooth, Quiet Storm-like track about unexpectedly, stupidly and desperately in love and that love changing the narrator’s life for the better — and of course, its underpinned by Hawthorne expressing a vulnerable, urgent and plaintive need that gives the song an irresistible sensuality.

 

 

If there’s one thing that listeners will instantly gleam from this new EP is that Hawthorne and Jake One have further cemented their reputation for crafting dance floor friendly, two-step, 80s-inspired synth funk and sexy, slow-burning ballads with a subtly modern take.