Rating: 9 / Format: CD/LP / Label: Stones Throw
After months bubbling up through the cracks of electronic club music (think of Skweee – aka Synthetik Skandinavian Funk – or of Gemmy, Guido and Joker’s ‘purple’ sounds), a glorious fountain of funk has burst forth in the form of the debut album from DâM-FunK (pronounced ‘dame funk’).
Describing himself as a "Los Angeles based ‘Modern-Funk” musician, wax collector, ‘Boogie’ aficionado & founder of L.A party Funkmosphere, DâM-FunK filters elements of P-Funk, G-Funk and early ’80s electro-funk (e.g. Change, D-Train, Style-era Cameo) into a beguiling new concoction. To misquote Simon Reynolds, many crimes have been committed in the name of funk (Red Hot Chilli Peppers take a bow). And all too often it is the cartoon elements of the genre (Larry Blackmon’s codpiece, Jessie Rae’s claymore, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk) that get more attention than the seriously good sounds. Thankfully, DâM-FunK manages to strike the right balance between the sublime and the ridiculous.
In a world being slowly auto-tuned to death, it’s amazing how fresh a good old-fashioned vocoder sounds, an effect put to great use on several occasions during Toeachizown, starting with the opening ‘Let’s Take Off (Far Away)’ and never more so than on the album’s centre piece, ‘Brookside Park’. This track makes explicit the Mothership Connection, both in its subject matter (a UFO-sighting in Pasadena) and its woozy Worrellesque synth lines. The ‘brothers from another planet’ vibe also informs album closer ‘Keep Lookin 2 the Sky’, as well as ‘The Sky is Ours’, a track that, both in theme and tempo, provides the missing link between ‘aquacrunk’ and cosmic disco.
In the best traditions of Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross, DâM-FunK takes time out from the dancefloor to take care of your bedroom needs as well. The funk ballad at its worst is possibly the cheesiest thing known to humanity. On ‘One Less Day’, G-Shaft’s guest rap ("Take it from the bank honey/my money is yours if I got it baby/you my lady") pushes this otherwise immaculate track close to naff Quiet Storm territory. The vocoder-heavy ‘Love is Here 2nite (I can feel it)’ has no such embarrassment, sounding like make out music for horny Cylons. Best of all is ‘I Wanna Thank You For (Stepping into my Life)’, which combines a mellifluous vocal line and insanely catchy chorus with a skipping LinnDrum pattern that captures the sentiment of the tune beautifully.
If ‘I Wanna Thank You’ is DâM-FunK at his most pop, the brilliant ‘Come on outside’ shows his mastery of the mixing desk. Drums and vocals are fed through a delay in a way that recalls Larry Levan’s immense production of The Peech Boys’ ‘Don’t make me wait’, gradually overlapping like some urban contemporary Steve Reich.
Track 8 of Toeachizown is titled ‘Searchin’ 4 Funk’s Future’. Search no more: DâM-Funk is here.