The first song sums this album up. A Truman Capote-like voice rambles above tribal drumming. He says, “This is something about the energy you find in music. Now I mean specifically about African music.” He continues to explain that such music is syncopated, driven by the downbeat. “I think it’s the heartbeat really, of many, many people all at once. Basically, it’s the heart of Africa.”
In the second of the series of San Francisco Sessions, released by Om Records, DJ John Howard serves up some signature house music infused with a bit of jungle sound.
Howard has been a San Francisco DJ since 1993, which is known as the infamous summer of love. He got involved in the DJ scene because he wanted to contribute more to the scene than just skateboarding around the city. Today he’s known as a quintessential San Francisco DJ and is a resident at the Kit Kat Club along with Jellybear, Garth and Gene Farris.
Howard’s sounds fuse tribal and funk beats. A critic on the Om Records website described his style as “funk fused with a large dose of Chicago style reckless mixing and track selection combined with his own brand of eclectic jazz funk and bay area radio influences from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s”.
Anyone who likes a little bit of innovative house, this album is for you. It’s not straight house. It’s a fusion of tribal, jazz and funk sounds. It ranges from loungy to ethereal to twilight zonish to Latin jazzish. But there’s one thing that stays the same. Throughout the entire album is an underlying tribal-type beat that keeps the momentum going.
The loungy pieces include The Deal’s “Play On” and the Underworld’s “Cups”. A few songs with great horn parts include Martin Solveig’s “Heart of Africa”, Kad Achouri’s “Latiname”, and the Groove Collective’s “Everything Is Changed”. The especially surreal Children of the Planet Earth song, “You Are the Future”, transports listeners to a space age that conjures up images of Jetsons-type clothing and technology.
The vocals are minimal on this album, but two notable ones are “You Are the Future”, where a woman voice comes in singing sounds not actual words, and Gabriel Rene’s “Don’t You Cry”, where a gospel voice blares lines from George Gershwin’s classic “Summertime”.
Just as the song is titled “Heart of Africa”, this piece is the heart of the album. The vocal track lets the reader know right away what this album is trying to say. The saxophone floats above tribal beats, seducing the ear to want to listen to more.