Via Arpan Somani
I wasn’t aware that New Zealand contained anything more than fields and sheep, but apparently the experimental funk/jazz/hip-hop/R&B scene is thriving there. Funkommunity is a duo from the NZ that’s making some really interesting music fusing all of the aforementioned genres. Singer Rachel Fraser has a smooth, inviting voice that goes perfectly with producer Isaac Aesili’s beats. Jazz guitar and piano round out their totally unique sound.
Take their song “The Light,” track three on their album Chequered Thoughts, for example. The intro drums and bass sound almost like Biggy’s “Juicy.” Then comes in two layers of Rachel Fraser, “Always running late, dressing right for the wrong occasion. I don’t mean to make you wait, blame it on my occupation,” she sings, perfectly harmonized, in a laid back, soulful style that sounds like a mix of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott. Little bumps of synth chords begin to make their way into the mix along with a catchy lead synth line that accentuates the songs chillness (for lack of a better word). As the song builds, we get some funky guitar, jazzy piano, and more of those beautiful vocals. The song seems to breathe. All the parts move in unison. Everything sounds natural and elegant.
Track 4 on Chequered Thoughts, called “Dandelion,” gives us what equates to Funkommunity’s mission statement: “I am a free spirit. I like the open ear. Fire is inside me. Play each day by ear.” As Fraser chants her mantra, the song simultaneously opens and closes. The synths pulse. The vocals vanish, and then reappear, only to vanish again. There’s even some Hendrix style reverse guitar thrown in. And it’s all over a quiet sample that repeats continually, subtly singing, “when I’m with you.”
Funkommuinty is like the best elevator music you’ve never heard. If Flying Lotus got way too stoned and decided to make a smooth jazz album, it might have a similar sound. There are other highlights all over the album, from infectious opener “Pass it On” to instrumental “Northwest & 4th,” to the masterfully put together “Yeah,” where some kind of xylophone provides an anchor for layers upon layers of Fraser’s vocals.
So, take a moment and check out these oddballs from New Zealand. Some choice tracks below.