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Funk





Ghost Funk Orchestra soundtracks the "Asphalt Homeland"

If the long awaited Cagney & Lacey movie ever comes to fruition (sorry, I don't consider the TV movies canon) I'm going to immediately start an online petition to make "Asphalt Homeland" the opening credit music--played as the camera slowly pans over the asphalt homeland of Lower Midtown Manhattan until landing on our two sometimes harried but always resolutely determined lady detectives. And sure, the new single by Ghost Funk Orchestra is a good deal less boob-tube bouncy and peppy than the original TV theme song, but that's good because it'll help Cagney & Lacey make the transition to the big screen with the help of some dramatic, cinematic music.

Of course this isn't to imply that bandleader/songwriter/arranger/producer Seth Applebaum only writes music appropriate for a Cagney & Lacey type show. To the contrary, Seth is a one-man "library music" machine whose music could just as easily be used to score urban dramas, medical dramas, gangster epics, or even wild comedies and super action films but with a distinct golden-era approach harkening back to a time when jazz and funk and rock and Latin music and psychedelic music (and many other genres besides) often shared equal space on a single soundtrack.

Take the song called "Fuzzy Logic" for example (see video above) which stays true to its title by rejecting Boolean either/or logic in favor of multiplicity and suggestive ambiguity. It starts off sounding like the dramatic opening moments to a classic spy soundtrack or a caper movie with its dissonant stabs of brass and syncopated hi-hat cymbal--not to mention how the music video's use of color gels and multiple exposure give it a strong Bond pre-credit sequence vibe--before sliding into a groove that's laid back enough to be Sade-approved but with some vaguely uneasy lyrics (and a brief Bill Withers "I know" interlude, may he rest in peace) sung to enchanting effect by regular vocal collaborator Romi Hanoch (PowerSnap). And then about one minute in the song takes another turn with a breakdown section featuring flamenco-style clapping and dub-like echo and surf guitar reverb before circling back to the second verse and then later ending with a concise but still pretty epic solo outro traded between baritone sax and flute.

Seriously, put this song on in the car next time you're cruising around and it's guaranteed to make you feel like a total badass even if you're just heading to 7-11. Or put on almost any GFO song because they rarely skimp on the funkiness, the ghostliness, or the intricate orchestrations. And did I say "one-man show"? In reality, Ghost Funk Orchestra is more like a ten-to-twelve-man-and-woman machine because you know it can't be easy making music this elaborate alone and especially not if you plan to play live. And by the way seeing GFO live is a wonderful thing that will presumably happen again someday soon. 


So, if you lack familiarity with the Ghost Funk prior to "Asphalt Homeland," their most recent full-length An Ode To Escapism (2020) is a good place. The album features a shift array of musical emotional hues that still manage to flow together as a continuous whole--more that fulfilling the promise of the album's title. And just case you happen to forget the stated purpose of the album while listening there's an intermittent GPS Lady voiceover reminding you that "as long as your headphones are on...you're safe, and hidden" and it never hurts to be reminded of that. (Jason Lee)





El Michels Affair mark the start of Yeti Season

A couple years ago I got a chance to see Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century on the big screen—a film first released in 1977 to capitalize on the recent hit King Kong remake starring Jessica Lange—and boy I'm glad I did. An Italian film production shot in Canada and then poorly dubbed into English, Yeti: Got2C tells the familiar story of what happens when boy meets Yeti, grandfather of boy attempts to exploit Yeti as corporate mascot, sister of boy inadvertently seduces Yeti after brushing up against his gigantic nipple, gang of miscreants frame Yeti for murder and get the public to call for his head, Yeti gets fed up and ransacks Toronto, dog belonging to boy saves Yeti from gang of miscreants, boy and dog run across field towards each other in slow motion and meet in final ecstatic embrace. The End.

I'm sharing this absurd movie synopsis not only because the album discussed here also has “Yeti” in its name or because now I know you want to watch it immediately, but also because I bet that if El Michels Affair could go back in time that they would end up happy and well-compensated by writing soundtracks for movies just like this one--tho' not only Yeti-sploitation movies of course but also Spaghetti Westerns and Italo giallo shockers and conspiracy thrillers and Kung-Fu/martial arts movies of course, plus writing music to go with whatever other movie genres and trends are popular at the drive-in at the time. And conversely I could see the 70s Italian Yeti entering the El Michels Affair universe because if you took the super funky opening theme song to Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (called "Yeti" and credited to The Yetians, naturally) and slipped it onto an El Michels Affair album then I think I'd probably be none the wiser and you could even do that with some of the other music from the soundtrack too.

Likewise, if you took the cover image from the 1977 "Yeti" 45-rpm promotional vinyl single (thank you, Internet) which features our hulking hero positioned in such a way that he appears either to be dancing or to be squatting and about to take a Yeti sized dump (the weird almost sheepish expression I dunno) with the words “funky disco sound” superimposed over his hairy crotch (talk about potentially funky in more way than one) all set against the backdrop of a blue-tinted, badly blown-up photograph of the Yeti's ancestral home on a rocky mountain somewhere, and then if you told me this was the cover image to the new EMA album I would totally believe you because the soundtrack song cover image fits so perfectly with the playful cut-and-paste aesthetic of EMA's music plus it's vaguely psychedelic feel (on this new album especially) and equally with EMA's sly sense of humor and the pure kick-assitude of the band's "funky disco sound," so that when you peep the real cover below it's more than a little uncanny how there's a blueish, cartoonish backdrop there too with yellow lettering and how the Yetis are both in a similarly off-center foregrounded position and how in both images it clearly looks like a man in a Yeti suit. The only major difference I see between the two record covers is that the Yeti in the EMA version has a kid in his arms and its the kid who is possibly dancing. 

Really and truly, I'm trying to avoid spreading conspiracy theories in this space about purported connections between this film and this album, but it's not easy when you find so much overwhelming evidence and plus you know how people today love their conspiracies so maybe I should write a book or something.

And sure ok, the band's namesake leader, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels has shared an origin story for the album’s title with another magazine that shall remain nameless and the story doesn't involve Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century. Still, I’m not convinced, because who tells the truth in the pages of the Rolling Stone anyway? But even if Leon Michels isn't a time-traveler in real life I can see why he would call his music "cinematic soul" because there's such a kinship to my ears between the sounds on the album and some of the sounds I've heard not only in Italian film music but also in soundtracks from Bollywood and Nollywood and other global film industries making productions designed to be polyglot, and aimed at multi-lingual and multi-ethnic audiences. So perhaps no mistake that from around the late '60s to maybe the early '80s a good number of these soundtracks pointed the way to a nascent "world music" sensibliity based on globe-spanning eclecticism, but at the same time equally based on a bedrock of melodic hooks and funk grooves and tight arrangements.

And so thank goodness that El Michels Affair is out here in 2021 making cinematic soul soundtracks for these modern times, because I'm not really quite comfortable going back to the movies yet, and EMA's music makes it easy to create movies in your head. Like on the 2020 release Adult Themes which--fair warning, be prepared to take its title literally--provides the listener with a series of sweeping, pulsing musical themes to an imaginary film of the sexy variety, probably quite similar to the movies that would run for months on end in Times Square until Deep Throat came along and got the mafia involved, that could provoke your mind to make some movies that will fully solve the mind-body paradox once and for all. But if that sounds too taxing then I'd recommendYeti Season instead, because to my ears it aspires to a more spiritually-inclined form of elevation that's ideal for creating critical-hit Oscar-bait movies in your head. But just to be clear, the funk is still in effect on Yeti Season. It's just a little more mellow overall and also the funk gets mixed to intriguing effect with everything from a stately overture played by Turkish-American qanun master Tamer Pinarbasi ("Fazed Out") to some exquisite and emotive singing by Piya Malik (Say She She) on four tracks to some strong doses of the Turkish psych pop and folk rock styles that served as one of the musical inspirations to the project according to Michels himself.

So in closing this all makes me think that fake soundtrack music should be more widespread today--not only for the benefit of movie-in-our-heads makers but also for composers because the fake soundtrack is a great concept to inspire stretching out and exploring new sounds and new creative pathways and who knows maybe new career opportunities too. For even if El Michels Affair has a lock on not-faking-the-funk on film right now, it can't last forever. And when it ends, who will write disco funk anthems for future generations and for future sad-eyed Yetis if not you? (Jason Lee)





Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble "NOW (Forever Momentary Space)"

Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble has released visuals for the title track from their forthcoming, NOW, which is set to be released via International Anthem on April 9th.

This is the work of Angel Bat Dawid (clarinet), Ben LaMar Gay (cornet & melodica), Dana Hall (drums), Damon Locks (samples & electronics), and Arif Smith (percussion).

Locks had this to say about "Now (Forever Momentary Space)"; this "is about the moment outside of the timeline where everything is possible. That moment is now."





Dylan Chambers lets loose in new single "Ya Feelin’ Good?"

With a cascading euphoria channeled via luscious falsettos and slippery guitar licks, Dylan Chambers escapes 2020 in his new single “Ya Feelin’ Good?” and does it with hot flair. Funky and free, with a bap-bap lightning beat, “Ya Feelin’ Good?” has an aim to get you dancing, and Dylan Chambers takes command with an energetic attitude that is felt both in the cream-smooth pre-choruses and in the song’s tail-end electric guitar shred. Dylan Chambers, a Los Angeles resident since 2011, allows himself a moment of celebration, during a career that keeps on blossoming through hard work, and invites you to join in: stream “Ya Feelin’ Good?” for your ticket to the party. - René Cobar

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A Deli Premiere: "Rollercoaster" by JUICYPEAR

There is hardly a better way to prepare for the weekend than by letting go of the extra cargo and fusing into the groove of “ Rollercoaster,” a sweet indie-pop single by LA’s stylish duo JUICYPEAR. The glossy new track uses its sexy rhythm (fat bass) and melting electric guitar chords to usher one dance-pop hook after the other, the voice of Jasmine Mayeda guiding the euphoria of the moment. Together with her husband Jacob, Jasmine Mayeda rides the beat past its sharp sonic curves and composes a beautiful song that moves from dream-glitch bridges to a funk-futuristic rock finale that may leave your hair a mess. “Rollercoaster” is the sophomore single from JUICYPEAR, who reflects on the new single as follows: “Some seasons of life can feel like you’re riding an emotional rollercoaster. We thought it would be cool to bring the viewer into some of those life moments, while weaving in and out of vintage TVs, to show even our relationship has its ups and downs.” Nothing in the world is perfect, but in the pursuit of that perfection, a story weaves itself, that with its imperfections, becomes something better, more precious by far. Hang in there, stream our premiere of “Rollercoaster,” and enjoy the ride. - René Cobar

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