Sitting over here in Americaville, it's easy to imagine '70s funk and soul as something that happened in a bubble exclusively limited to the borders of the good ol' US of A. In reality, half the globe was jamming out to these grooves, not to mention making their own, especially in Africa, as evidenced by the cottage industry of Afro-funk reissues that has sprouted up in recent years. Oddly enough, that crate-digging wave was partially set off by the 2001 release of Afro-Rock Vol.1 on the tiny Kona label. Now the folks at Strut have decided to reissue that groundbreaking compilation, and they've sent along the previously unavailable, non-album bonus track "Odi-Yoo" to whet everyone's appetite. If the track's head-nodding bassline and psychedelic guitar work are any indication of what kind of trip Afro-Rock Vol.1 has to offer, it's a journey not to be missed the second time around.
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It's a safe bet that we're not the only ones counting down the days until the release of No Más, the debut full-length from Brooklyn duo Javelin. To tide us over, the playful cut-and-paste specialists have handed over "Oh! Centra," a hyperactive pop confection that pairs silly, helium-voiced '80s playground raps with light-hearted melodies and Game Boy-era blips and bleeps. Normally this kind of camp sends us running for the hills, but this is the sort of goofiness we can get behind.
"Twist in My Sobriety" was, unfortunately, never as big a hit in the US as it was in Europe, but with the arrival of Alf Tumble's lovely edit of Tanita Tikaram's 1988 pop masterpiece, its obscure status is bound to change. Like Giorgio Moroder's lush take on Janis Ian's "Fly Too High" or any number of Kate Bush edits, Tumble does a masterful job of preserving the original's emotional intensity as well as expanding upon its synth work, bulking it up and adding some fierce kicks below it. Inspired by his own "battle" with alcohol and coffee—he claims to be three weeks clean on both fronts—perhaps Tumble's finest move was to leave Tikaram's amazing vocals intact, with only minimal tweaks here and there. Though not necessarily a floor-filling banger, this edit of "Twist in My Sobriety" is perfect for wistful bedroom dancing, and sometimes, that's perfect.
DJ Donna Summer (a.k.a. Jason Forrest) does an interesting turn on "Raw," incorporating some excellent tribal house beat samples into what's otherwise a serviceable bass track. With the incorporation of excellent secondary percussive bits, a seductive vocal snippet and a spacey, somewhat squelchy melodic line, the piece certainly does have its charms. Taken from DDS's latest EP, which comes out tomorrow, you can also peep the video for the track here.
The wacky digi-punk sounds found on the original track "Bastard Kids," by Belgian outfit The Brown Acid, are just about completely removed on this remix by Ikonika. Her incongruous version of the song turns up the dubstep and garage levels to the max with the sheen of glossed-over percussion, wavering synth tones, and a head-slamming beat that'll move just about any room in her native UK. Once the sparkling melodies rise to the top of the whole jam, Ikonika will have won over anyone within earshot of the track.
LA's Free the Robots has slowly been crafting one of the more unique sounds to come out of the West Coast beat scene, pairing futuristic basslines that could fit into a dubstep set with chunky, dusty beats that sound straight out of the mid-'80s. On "Orion's Belt Buckle," bass throbs in front of wet, slowed industrial percussion while spacey synth lines and arpeggiations round out the track's melodic end. With his debut album, Ctrl Alt Delete, coming out March 30, this slice is exemplary of what this young beatmaker can do.
Yes, we know that this is the theme song to that goofy new show on HBO where the most witty and attractive "hipsters" on the planet hustle their way through the "mean streets" and "glamorous nightlife" of a fantasyland version of the Big Apple. Yes, we also know that the average shelf life of TV theme songs is about four days. But damn if this track from LA soul-slinger Aloe Blacc isn't the finest slice of vintage-sounding, piano- and horn-powered funk we've heard in quite some time. We're not usually big on nostalgia parties, but if you can't enjoy a few laps in the "I Need a Dollar" pool, you're officially dead inside.
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