Trancing, modern funk
Music has a funny way of living multiple lives. One generation’s music is always different than another, but sometimes a renaissance sneaks through the cracks. That familiar feeling takes over, and what was old is new once again. Such is the case with terms like “modern funk,” “contemporary bluegrass” also affectionately referred to as “newgrass,” or the many uses of the terms “progressive, alternative, post” as a prefix for a given music.
While genre is a relatively suspect word, it’s difficult not to characterize certain instruments together or time signatures as a “genre.” Take Dam-Funk as a prime example. Dam-Funk’s first full-length, Invite the Light, was released on September 4 under the Stones Throw label. The album entails a mostly “modern funk” theme throughout, but he tends to get a bit experimental, often turning typical funk sensibilities on their head.
For example, “I’m Just Tryna Survive (In the Big City),” at heart has a mostly funk root, but the stunted drum rhythm and the somewhat chaotic bass line are not always the most congenial to the head nods of a dutiful listener. And while it’s entertaining, it’s alive in a way that only funk can do – easy listening vocal melodies that are both catchy and dynamic, including the short break for a rap in the middle. But it’s also not quite funk, the bass is replaced with a synth bass and it’s definitely noticeable.
It’s quickly apparent by the fourth or fifth song that Dam-Funk lives in a world where he is not tied down to any genre – he is attached to expression, to carrying a message, and that does not require limiting himself to musical avenues.
There are several artists that have lifted themselves from their root genre to higher and bigger places and Dam-Funk should be included in that vein. Everything from funk to house can be found throughout the album in one form or another, varying tempos and exchanged instruments, lyrical hooks and passionate raps (even from some of hip hop’s most famous, including Snoop Dogg), and even the occasional solo on a synth instead of a guitar.
Without a doubt, funk’s largest reason to exist is to lift people up over their burdens – to dance, to sing, to celebrate joy. Think to yourself – has there ever been a sad, despondent funk song?
Even without lyrics, Dam-Funk sets that uplifting tone throughout Invite The Light, but it certainly helps to hear the message spoken to the listener.
With tracks like “Just East Your Mind of All Negativity,” “Floating on Air,” and “Kaint Let ‘Em Change Me,” Dam-Funk feels strongly about healing. That’s the message of funk – to purge a clouded mind and embrace the looseness of the music, to take hold of that liberty and relish in it. Even in the first track, the transmission sends the message of the album, “If we invite the funk / it will never let us down.”
Yet some tracks don’t even need vocals, a simple title suffices. “Floating on Air,” relies almost entirely on a simple drum groove that is entrancing from it’s start. In the meantime the synth’s role is two-fold: set the background music and create a “floating” airspace, which sometimes can feel almost like a lost Sonic the Hedgehog level from childhood video games. Aside from the occasional whispery, reverb filled vocal line of “Floating on Air,” the track is almost exclusively driven by the music. It’s relaxing, enticing, and up-lifting, another reason why Dam-Funk demands to be respected as a musical producer.
Dam-Funk has the unique ability to write pop tracks and experimental tracks on the same album without the integrity of his sound ever changing. The songs clearly have a flavor that is noticeably funk, but more importantly noticeably Dam-Funk. It’s plenty clear Dam-Funk has taken in his own mantra and delivered, “If we invite the funk, it will never let us down.”