Fast forward just over a year from the release of Olympus (what was for me one of 2015’s best releases) Uppsala combo Beat Funktion deliver Green Man, their 6th LP in six years, and their first that could be considered a vocal LP.
I already knew that the band could play, but when word of the vocal guests who would be appearing on the LP hit my ears I was initially intrigued. With each announcement of vocalists my intrigue turned into eager anticipation, and having listened to the LP for the last few weeks, that anticipation has turned in to deep appreciation.
Simply put Beat Function have delivered an LP steeped in the heady brews of 70s Soul, Funk, Jazz and Fusion and it sounds like heaven.
Kicking off with the aptly titled funk, moog filled workout that is ‘Steampunch‘. The track opens up the LP in Fonk-ey fashion (yeah I said it…Fonk-ey). The arrangement twists and turns throughout its 6 minutes journey, and gives each band member the time and space to stretch out their limber fingers, arms, lips and feet. The driving percussion, moog stabs, keys and horns weave together to create an embracing tapestry, that serves not merely as an opener, but as a statement of intent if ever there was one.
The first of 5 vocal tracks slinks into view on the back of a lush mid-tempo groove a la Incognito, that see’s Russian/Swedish Chanteuse, Viktoria Tolstoy, backed by the afro-soul-gospel choir AFRO, espousing the need to take action.
Her vocals and catchy hook glide on a groove that really begins to soften and cook when the band take centre stage, especially when the muted horns and strings come in to play.
Love In Vain is an 8 minute flash of brilliance, and one of the albums standout tracks, where vocals and musicianship merge flawlessly!
The track is brass heavy, in the right way, pulsating heartfelt meaning into every note and flourish. The impressive vocals of Alicia Olatuja express all the promise, guile and yearning from her own releases, and are a perfect foil to the sax and horn work that undulates, dips and soothes.
The track should be a sure fire winner on any discerning Northern Soul dancefloor!
On Jack The Ripper, the band delve into Funk Fusion territory, where the accompaniment is stripped back, featuring a metronomic baseline, mesmerising keys, and muted horns. The groove steps along nicely, until about 2 mins in where the track takes on a cosmic vibration, due to the otherworldly use of the screaming trumpet.
Adée continues her rising stardom on the melodic, warm and embracing track Paper Girl, doing what she does best, firmly eschewing holding women back. The band provide such a groove on the track courtesy of the intoxicating baseline and percussion, that Adée absolutely owns with each syllable of her vocals, and spoken word offering, which values the virtue of uplifting and seeing the inner as well as the outer beauty of our female counterparts.
The second of the LPs mid-tempo moments arrives in the shape of the atmospheric Soul / Jazz number Rewind, which features the crooning vocals of Claes Janson.
The track is accompanied by some wonderful strings, and a sublime horn arrangement which massage lyrics that call for the power to back track in time. The beauty of music remains it’s ability to connect, and to provide something new or previously undiscovered with each listen, as was the case here. Claes’ vocals caused my mind to drift away to regrets and loves lost in time.
Continuing the storytelling vibration he adopted on King Minos from Beat Funktion’s previous LP, Damon Elliott returns on the funky Over The Ocean, accompanied by the sassy strut of Swedish/Iranian vocalist Jasmine Kara.
The track is like a dash of espresso as the tempo never dips, with the horns, drums and percussion given an added jolt from Jasmine’s incessant vocals. Fans of Brian Auger will definitely get something from the track as the moog and hammond lines on the track turn this into another solid Funk Fusion work out.
Of all the instrumental tracks on offer, Lorelei is the most subdued. The band showcase their ability to hold back, using each instrument to slowly build and fill the serene space, leaving a track that is all about the melodic. As has been the case with the majority of the LP, it is clear that the band can play, but on Loralei they show they can also feel.
The track is atmospheric bliss and feels like a Sunday morning stroll through the park, kicking the dried leaves in Uppsala in Autumn.
Whilst I was too young to have attended New York’s famous Studio 54 (yes readers, I said too young!) I can imagine We Are Young receiving much love on that discerning dancefloor.
Sprinkled with just the right amount of 70s disco glitter, the uptempo vibration of the track featuring lovey vocals from Swedish Idol contestant Matilda Gratte, extolls the need to remember to embrace the child that lives in us all, and to break free. The composition reaches a crescendo in the shape of some amazing keys work from Daniel Lantz, and the lyrical content has been designed with one thought in mind, to help you lose yourself on the dancefloor,
Entering into deep Afro-Funk politically charged territory the LP signs off with the title track, featuring Mozambique native, Swedish resident, wordsmith Deodato Siquir, and for the second time on the LP, the AFRO choir.
The track features a heavy baseline, blaring horns, and submerged vocals, coming together with lashings of strings and choral harmonies.
Lyrically Deodato provides an impetus for the times, and when he roars ‘for how long i can’t remember, while i’m waiting for the green man all i do is stand and dream, and there’s no goal’. The lyrics are a siren song, compelling us us to look internally, to move forward, and to disregard the status quo. It is clear why the LP takes it title from the track, as the band seem in almost perpetual motion, giving us message music for the millennium!
Whilst Green Man is an album that is expansive, it never feels overpowering, or lacking in focus, as its feet are firmly planted in warm 70s territory. The arrangements are executed flawlessly, with each band member hitting that deep Soul, Funk, and Jazz pocket and the thoughtful inclusion of guest vocalists provide the band with the opportunity to expand their sound rather than being submissive to each vocalists distinct flavour.
Daniel Lantz‘s penmanship is worthy of additional praise here for that, as with each release his dexterity grows and grows.
Whenever you start your journey and wherever your journey takes you, The Green Man is a universal sign that it’s safe to cross to the other side, and a copy of this fabulous LP will guide you safely on your way.
File The Green Man under essential!
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY
WATCH PART 1/9 – The making of GREEN MAN
Photos by Palli Kristmundsson