- Top 100
April 18, 2011
By Greg West
It’s only early spring, but my summertime already has a soundtrack—from last week‘s Wonky from Orbital, to Soul Clap’s EFUNK, my summer is going to be full of warm and liquid old-school grooves.
A collaboration between Boston DJs Elyte and Cnyce, Soul Clap’s sound is rooted down in the 90s rave scene, where the pair met. The whimsy of Dmitri from Paris meets west coast electro and hip hop funk, in a series of laid-back summertime jams. After a quick intro, the album opens with Taking it Slow, a track that represents their M.O. “We’re all about taking it slow, being patient—slow jams,” the pair said in a recent Mixmag webcast—and it’s clear from the opening chords and the downtempo beat, to the disco and funk influenced vocals from Franceska, that the slow jam is an art Soul Clap have mastered.
The whole EFUNK album has a mixtape feel—like a pastiche of everything great about the nineties—from the All Saints to Friday, and from rave to the explosion of house. And you see Soul Clap’s DNA all over the place—from their cover of Egyptian Lover’s ’86 single The Alezby Inn, where vocals by the Heathen From Geneva and new production take a classic electro-jam and tighten it up; to Lets Groove On a fresh track built up from a demo passed on by a friend—Roldy Cezare—where Slick Rick like delivery meets a saccharine chorus that’s played out over a house-y electro funk track:
groove on, move on, until you touch the sky / live long, live strong, the music never dies / you know, you can, acheive what’s on your mind / groove on, move on, the limit is the sky.
It might all be a little too much retro, and a little too nice, but from their Borat-meets-bling get-ups on the album cover, to their puppet filled music videos, it’s clear that Soul Clap aren’t taking themselves too seriously. Even if it’s the coolest pool-party on the block, and the songs rock obscurely cool musical references, everyone’s invited. Clapping Song takes this to the extreme, with a block-party backdrop and samples ranging from kazoo to live instruments. It’s a funk-a-delic jam that the duo describe as a key part in the album-making-project, where they began to loosen up and have fun developing their sound. I think it’s fair to say they succeed, the song’s chorus describes it exactly: “Listening to that music makes makes everybody clap / and listenting to that music makes everbody dance.”
But in addition to friendly bonhomie, Soul Clap have some serious chops. For me, they unfold over the second half of the album. Two tracks featuring vocals by the All Saints’ Mel Blatt are absolute gems. Ecstacy closes off the A-side with a slow sexy jem that’s pure make-out music. Lyrics Blatt’s written to capture the brazenly erotic attitude of old soul tunes are delivered over plangent bass with mad skill. And she delivers great vocals again on Need Your Lovin’ a reengineering of the ’92 NRG hit that dials back some of the extraneous flourish and cheese of the original to key into a deep, visceral, trance vibe. Here, Soul Clap are at their finest, it’s slow jam excellence—dragging the original through midi and back to make it their own, they’ve achieved slow-jam transcendence.
The album closes with a two movement track Islands in Space—the first, absent vocals, plays with the albums’ funk and electro themes, setting them over an introspective downtempo beat—the perfect penultimate track to a long night of good times. The second closes the show with a banger encore that starts out with bass strings and builds towards jazz riffs, scratches. and breathy vocals.
All told, it’s a fantastic release. It drops 4/20, and is available on iTunes. A vinyl edition is also being released but seems behind schedule—still, you can pre-order it from your local record store, or on Amazon. You can find Soul Clap on SoundCloud.
Have a release I should check out? Drop me a line at email@example.com, or tweet me @worldsbestvegan
Want to mix your own backyard party? Check out DJ Mag Canada’s series of blogs on Abletron Live http://www.djmag.ca/blogs/live-and-direct/