Title: The Darknuss
Label: TruGroid / dist. via Bandcamp
Formats: CD, Digital (MP3, FLAC, etc.)
Release date: July 16, 2014
Whenever the collective of New York musicians known as Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber releases a new album, there is ample reason to celebrate. This time around we’re introduced to their “avant funk & roll splinter cell” Rebellum, performing “grown & sexy avant-agit pop bursting with warped soul harmonies, freedom-swing horn play, maggot-brained guitar implosions & arkestral loopadelics” that channel “the spirits of Sun Ra, Ron Hardy, Eddie Hazel, Gary Numan & The Emotions!” If this brings to mind wildly funky genre-defying musical experimentations, you’d be 100% correct.
Produced by Burnt Sugar co-founders Greg Tate and Jared Michael Nickerson along with Luqman Brown (FunkFace, Dope Sagittarius), the album features vocalists Mikel Banks and Shelley Nicole, drummer Hiroyuki “Matsu” Matsuura, guitarist Ben Tyree, with Nickerson on bass, plus a horn section comprised of ‘Moist’ Paula Henderson (Moisturizer) on bari sax, V. Jeffery Smith (The Family Stand) on tenor sax, Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes on trumpet, and Leon Gruenbaum on keyboards, plus a bevy of special guests.
”Young Fraknenstank” finds Nickerson and guest guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour) steering a path through Greg Tate’s distorted beats and loops, while “There is a God (The Singularity)” is a gravity defying echo chamber of vocals layered over electronics and snippets of instrumental improvisation. On “Rockstar Amnesiac” vocalists Kim Hill and Shelley Nicole clearly relish their roles, with the catty call and response “who could ever forget you were a rock star? / never ever never ever forget.” “Somebody to Love You” is a more straightforward jazz trio featuring soulful interplay between songstress Abby Dobson, pianist Courtney Bryan, and saxophonist Micah Gaugh (the song is then deconstructed on the “beats version” track with Tate taking over the accompaniment). Trending even more toward the avant garde is “Start Thinking Like an Afreakun” with vocalist Meah Pace, and “Heart Seed” featuring guitarist Ronny Drayton dueling it out with saxophonist V. Jeffery Smith. Meah Pace returns on the brief but satisfying deep funk track “Lawd Knows You Do,” with Courtney Bryan riffing on the B3 and Ben Tyree tearing it up on lead guitar. Another outstanding track is “Ten Times Left” featuring the spoken poetry of Mikel Banks, coalescing at the conclusion with the bluesy chorus “ten times more making sweet love to you / so this mean old world don’t stop the record too soon.”
A cosmic collision of genres and trippy electronic effects, The Darknuss hits like a bolt of lightning that will both shock and awe. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss