If it doesn’t exist on Wikipedia then it doesn’t exist right? 2013 has been the year for what we like to loosely call “Synth Funk”.
Modern New Urban/G-wave/G-funk/Synth-wave/Modern Funk/Sleep-wave call it what you will. We’re talking about the emergence of a core of labels and artists who have filled the marketplace with quality molten wax this year. An underground movement. A collective of like minded Funk lovers exploring the possibilities and sharing the results to enrich those whom are interested.
And interested we have been. Our thirst for fresh downbeat synth dubs and super smooth soul quenched by a string of quality releases throughout the year.
Dam Funk’s opus Toeachizown stands as the blueprint to Synth Funk, and with each of the five LPs repressed at the start of the year it perfectly ushered in the new wave.
A catalyst, in the form of the mighty Peoples Potential Unlimited Records, would help stimulate the scene by pushing out an ever expanding catalogue of original boogie and emergent modern funk.
No label embodies this emergence as aptly as Portland’s Omega Supreme Records. A lone debut 12 in 2012 by Turqouise Summers paved the way for what has been a great year for Gwizski’s label. Starting with the eponymous Sasac promo, a Stockholm based solo musician, delivering a soothing selection of relaxed grooves brilliantly put out on cassette (a trend we covered in Cassette Review), the ferric presentation adding to to the lo-fi vibe and providing a bridge to the 80s from where this sound draws such influence.
A 7″ of the incredibly catchy “All Pleasures” sealed the desire for a Sasac LP which graced our decks before autumn. Omega Supreme followed the same cassette and LP M.O. with Turquoise Summers brilliant “Touch Of Turquoise” album and also found time to put together the Raw Silk Vol.1 compilation featuring tracks from the aforementioned Sasac and Turquoise Summers alongside K-Maxx, Bus Crates 16 Bit Ensemble, Benedek and Roating Souls’ East Liberty Quarters. This LP acts as a timely benchmark as the year draws to a close.
Omega Supreme records are but one of a handfull of independents pushing this sound and the big daddy of them all is the aforementioned publishing and distribution behemoth that is Peoples Potential Unlimited. Synth Funk is intrinsically linked to the Boogie resurgence which has been fed by the endeavors of this great label. “That sound” impossible to source, independently released golden nuggets from back in the hayday of post disco 80s funk, the preserve of the hardcore collector, brought forward, remastered, pressed and distributed. Any modern funk fancier should owe a debt of gratitude to PPU. It really is the Star to which the rest of the scene orbits, a position which holds it up as our label of the year 2013.
Already sporting a healthy back cat of rare boogie funk at the start of the year PPU records went from strength to super strength in 2013 pushing new funk not just by distributing other like minded labels but by releasing original new works by the likes of Moon B and Benedek. Cosmic Chronic is another Modern Funk label distributed by PPU. Their sun drenched murky smooth grooves fully befit their Miami base.
Synth Funk is not a microscene restricted to the US however; in it’s many fusions it has proven itself to be truly global. Take single of the year Pomslap by Belgian based keyboard genius Pomrad for example. A devastating slice of Synth Funk complete with vocoders and screaming keyboards, he’s the standard bearer, like Onra before him, setting the bar for others to gulp at. A warm thankyou to Ernest Endeavours for bringing us that one, another label that has helped shape the scene with a catalogue featuring 12′s from Darkhouse Fam and B Bravo. Another European label, Belgium’s On-Point records, made a splash with Masaratays Sexxxy and other sounds of a quirky downbeat nature.
What this breadth of sound shows us is that Synth Funk isn’t just the evolution of West Coast G-Funk but can be arrived at from a downbeat electronica, beats and soulful nu-urban angles alike.
Take K-Maxx with his smooth R&B blend, his four tracker on Sweater Funk following up last years Supadrunk with aplomb. Cherries Records have established themselves as THE go to label for quality independent soul, some of which, Amelia and Proh-Mic in particular, wouldn’t sound out of place on commercial radio but not to their detriment. Tony Oziers “Back To The Mitten” was picked up by the Bastard Jazz label for their Tempo Dreams 2 Comp, another benchmark release that also features tracks by the aforementioned Pomrad and K-Maxx amongst others. The first Tempo Dreams comp had been put together by Tall Black Guy and he returned in 2013 with his 8 Miles To Monart LP. Probably not strictly what we’re calling Synth Funk here but not to pigeonhole too tightly there has been a lot of top quality downbeat this year. Bastard Jazz also brought us the futuristic uptempo sounds of Colm K. Representative of the deeper, dubier modern garage sounds again demonstrating the diversity of a sound into which Synth Funk has broadened it’s horizons significantly in 2013. Another fine example of this being one of our house tunes of the year, Mike Kay’s Low Altitude. Antipodean boogie coming on like a phat Metro Area smokin blunt it’s one of very few house tempo Synth Funk tracks and it certainly straddles some boundaries.
As the year draws to a close, and just to put the cherry on the cake, Dam Funk and Snoopzilla have just released their 7 Days Of Funk LP which sees Snoop Dog getting busy over refashioned and new Dam beats with guest slots for Steve Arrington and Bootsy Collins. The first’Hollywood Releas’ of this burgeoning scene.
So from a clutch of producers and labels that have been keeping it real for a while to the shoots of a globe spanning genre in about a year. When you open it up to include like sounds from the world of Electronica, Hip-Hop, Beats, Ambient and Originals you find you have a definate genre nurtured by truely devoted independant artists and labels which, for us, has been the sound of 2013. Still, what do we know? We’re currently 60 million light years away in NGC 1232.
You need these records:-
Dam Funk – Toeachizown LP
Genre defining epic set over FIVE long players.
Robbie M – LP
One of the scenes stalwarts finally gets some tracks globally distributed.
Everything on Cherries!
Chicago based true indy Soul label.
Everything on Omega Supreme!
Testament to the sound outta Portland.
B Bravo & Teeko-The Starship Connection EP
Future synth bass from space.
Pomrad-This Day EP
Next level Synth Funk coming from the downbeat electronica perspective.
K-Maxx- Eye On U EP
Retro R&B flavour from the San Fran singer songwriter.
Colm K -The Love EP
Hairs stand on end for the break on The Attic…
Private Function EP
4 tracker feat. XL Middleton/Eddie Funkster/K-Maxx/Night School and Loose Shus
Moon B LP
Techno influence from Atalanta on PPU of course!
Devito And Namuh – Cloudshine Deluxe LP
Solid 90′s sounding R&B style.
XL Middleton – Keep It Funkin 7
Infectious heavy stepper on Mo Funk.
Nite Class – Love Scenes LP
‘Drum machine soul’ on Hot Shot Sounds
She’s So Rad-Last Dance EP
Retro synth grooves on Wonderful Noise.
Steve Arrington & Dam Funk-Higher LP
Full length follow up to to Goin Hard EP
DF & Snoopzilla-7 Days Of Funk LP
It needed to happen and it finally has. Marriage made in heaven on wax.
Tempo Dreams Vol.2
Global soulful contempory compilation by Starship Connection.
Dornik - Something About You
Ultra daytime radio R&B that remains underground.
Raw Silk Vol.1
Another genre defining comp featuring all the players.
HATS OFF TO THE LABELS
The embodiement of an independent record label. As label head Peanut Butter Wolf says “I don’t put out what I think the people will like, I put out what I like”
Jus go there and spend as much as you can afford!
London based art-led label that brought us 12s by B Bravo, The Darkhouse Family and Pomrad.
Quality soul independent.
Various top standard sounds outta Brooklyn.
New wave murk funk from Miami.
Modern Funk from the epicentre, Pasadena, LA.
“New drum machine soul” from Benny Badge and Inkswel.
San Fran collective pushing the good stuff.
Brussels based label on point.
Hip Hop and Soul styles always on wax.
Top class Bay Area new and original boogie press.
Shouts to anybody we’ve missed. Much love to all the artists, DJs, labels, collectors, listeners and supporters of this fantastic genre. Here’s to a musically properous 2014.