STR4TA - STR4TASFEAR Music Album Reviews

STR4TA - STR4TASFEAR Music Album Reviews
On their second album together, London DJ Gilles Peterson and Brit-funk pioneer Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick pay tribute to an overlooked strain of UK dance music.

In the early 1980s, before house music hit like a hurricane, many of the hippest dancers in the UK were wigging out to Brit funk, a home-grown take on jazz-funk that leaned on disco, drum machines, and slap bass, perfumed with the faintest flavor of of reggae, courtesy of artists like Central Line and Freeez. A Brit-funk revival has shown signs of sparking into life over the past few years, via scattered compilations and sporadic media interest, but it has never really caught fire. Now UK duo STR4TA set their sights on the neglected genre, and it’s hard to think of anyone better suited to the task. 

STR4TA’s members are Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick, a member of Brit-funk pioneers Light of the World and, later, acid-jazz mainstays Incognito, and Gilles Peterson, a London DJ and radio icon whose support for jazz-funk never wavered, even as its influence in clubs was decimated by the electronic sounds arriving from Chicago and Detroit. On STR4TASFEAR, their second full-length, they are joined by keyboardist Peter Hinds, who played with both Light of the World and fellow Brit-funk legends Atmosfear; UK neo-soul pioneer Omar; and Rob Gallagher, once of Galliano, a band that typified all that was wrong and right about the acid-jazz movement that snatched the crown from Brit funk at the start of the 1990s. (You can hear shades of Brit funk in Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai, acid jazz’s biggest global stars.)

As unashamed revivalists, STR4TA were always unlikely to push the musical envelope. STR4TASFEAR, much like their 2021 debut, Aspects, could largely have beamed in directly from 1985, with few nods to the anything that came after. The band’s sound is a mixture of jazzy chord changes, disco-ish keyboard trills, a sticky web of noodling basslines, and drums that sit somewhere on the fence between disco’s 4/4 pulse and the more complex cadences of funk and jazz, to which they add the occasional honeyed vocal. But STR4TASFEAR leans more heavily on drum machines than its predecessor, in homage to the electro/street-soul movement that Brit funk evolved into, influenced, or lived alongside (depending on who you believe), with songs like “When You Call Me” and “Night Flight” suggesting a tentative step into ’80s electronic.

At times, STR4TASFEAR feels like it is begging to be pushed into the specialist’s corner. “Why Must You Fly” opens with a bassline so thumb-slappingly complex that you practically have to fight your way through it, hacking away at the low-end tangle like the dense arboreal layers of a tropical forest. And opener “Galactic Fanfare”’s garish glissando synth soloing hangs a sign over the album’s entrance, warning that herein lie exceptionally groovy jazz-funk monsters. Resolutely prog, rather than punk, STR4TASFEAR is not an album for listeners who fear musical virtuosity or the occasional instrumental folderol that comes with it.

Maybe that sounds uninviting. But a love of extended bass grooves never did Thundercat any harm, and fans of DāM-FunK or 1970s Herbie Hancock will find plenty to admire in this finely crafted and refreshingly easygoing album. STR4TASFEAR operates in a world entirely impervious to musical fashion, spiriting worries away with serene chord changes and cosmic vibes. Meanwhile, the drum-machine songs, especially “When You Call Me,” have the irresistible TR-808 slink of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Sexual Healing”—the sound of the lascivious future as glimpsed from the near past.

In this context it is refreshing, and perhaps unsurprising, that STR4TASFEAR’s strongest moments come from its younger guests. Emma-Jean Thackray, the Northern English bandleader whose 2021 album Yellow was a revelation of psychedelic jazz, sings on album highlight “Lazy Days,” her energy and bite driving a song whose pop dynamism betrays its indolent title. American trumpeter Theo Croker, meanwhile, adds spacey melancholy to “To Be as One” and “Soothsayer,” his haunting trumpet lines billowing around the mix like smoke from a dying campfire.

STR4TASFEAR confidently sets out its goals and, as an extremely well-produced pastiche—absolutely no bad thing—pays loving tribute to an overlooked period of British music. But in bringing in younger guests who are less in debt to a specific vision of the past, STR4TA briefly transcend their roots, making a case for Brit funk as a musical genre that can still look to the future, rather than one mummified in the past. 

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
STR4TA - STR4TASFEAR Music Album Reviews STR4TA - STR4TASFEAR Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 05, 2022 Rating: 5


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