Kraak & Smaak: Boogie Angst

[27 June 2006]

By Dan Raper

Boogie Angst is a great title for a disc, isn’t it? The lithe combination communicates the fun of funk and breaks with the knowledge of the genre’s emptiness. It’s also an appropriate description of the music of young Dutch trio Kraak & Smaak. The breaks-influenced group, made up of Mark Knepper, Oscar De Jong & Wim Plug, blend jazzy rhythms, breaks and a retro, diva vocal vibe into a pleasant, light mix—all headspinning surface, nothing beneath. Think of Skeewiff’s recent single “Love Power”, or some of Jamiroquai’s more upbeat funk anthems, and you’ll have the idea. It’s not very fashionable music, and a bit overt in the same way as the Frank Popp Ensemble, but undeniably enjoyable.

The disc opens with “Money in the Bag” offering a funky, tin-pan rattle, the strong presence of bass with an electric organ line and silly, inspired lyrics: “We did it so many times / she started saying nursery rhymes”  I was really hoping to hear the sensual female vocal say “Mary had a little lamb”, instead of just “Oooohhh baby”, but you can’t have everything.

The best song is “One of These Days”, a funky and infectious single with a sultry jazz alto vocal, looping guitars and an old soul vibe. But a few others aren’t far behind: “Keep on Searching” is spacey and cool, with ‘60s handclaps and a fretted guitar background: because the group’s willing to let a sparser sound simply exist, a sense of space is established that defines cool.
So, fun, but this music isn’t necessarily much more. Of course, it’s a familiar sound - influences are many and varied, always within the pantheon of treble-heavy fun-inducing genres of the past. There’s ‘70s disco-funk on “Jolie Banane”, with its beat/offbeat syncopation and synth hits. On “5 to 4”, Kraak & Smaak up the cool jazz ante, increasing the brush-stroked percussion to boiling point to create a rolling, boiling syncopation. And Latin influences even poke their head in on “Mambo Solitario”, which shuffles with metallic percussion.

“Danse Macabre” uses clattering glockenspiel to illustrate the dancing skeletons, I suppose, but it’s covered by a trumpet line that’s a little too smooth Also, the smoky female vocal is too gentle to be a real macabre dance like “There There”. Compared to that song’s skeletons-in-the-closet paranoia and jangly accompaniment, glockenspiel just doesn’t cut it.

So that’s Kraak & Smaak. It’s a confident, fun sound but really, nothing immensely innovative or deep. Best enjoyed in small doses, it’ll likely fade away like a summer romance.

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