A summery second set from the British groove merchants.
Angus Taylor 2012
British retro groove merchants Funkshone’s second album (functionally titled 2) doesn’t try to reinvent the tone wheel where funk is concerned. Yet there is a sure progression in the group's own musical journey: away from the roughness of debut Shining, towards increasingly cinematic, orchestral sounds.
Soul-funk vocals like Darling Dear and Heaven Shine (utilizing lyrically light but tonally delightful new vocalist Jaelee Small) bump hips with swaggering, no-frills workouts such as Getting It Together. More intriguingly, however, a crate digger’s love of filmic instrumentals inspired by the scores of Lalo Schifrin, Roy Budd and Quincy Jones (and even long-forgotten library tracks) is brought into play.
Imaginary cops enter opium dens to the heady wooziness of Persuasion. Chase the Dream's dulcimer intro starts an aggressive battle: the horn section, comprising Patrick Kenny, Tom Mcleod and Alex Bezzina, wheels and swoops in aerial dogfights with guest flautist Kaidi Tatham and some vicious strings. Drummer, foundation, and former Mother Earth member Mike Bandoni (who co-produces with keyboardist Nino Aurrichio and bassist Danny Huckridge) is omnipresent yet seems happier to lead from behind.
As the second syllable in their name suggests, there is a summery feel throughout. In terms of maintaining this mood Funkshone are clinically consistent, never peaking nor troughing, and never once wandering past the five-minute mark into indulgence.
The obvious criticism that can be aimed at this album is that it is more about historical excursion than innovation. But that applies to much of the genre – funk rarely reacts to any cultural stimuli, bar its players’ love of times gone by. And for their part, Funkshone seem upfront and proud of their influences – both in their marketing and their music.
So although next time it might be nice to hear them throw more incongruities into the mix – as Quincy did with the British cockney injection to his Italian Job soundtrack – there is no filler amid their solid, sun-soaked grooves. And in opening younger listener’s ears to the original music that inspires them, Bandoni and co perform a very useful function indeed.