PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Dâm-Funk: Invite the Light

Modern-day funk prophet Dâm-Funk returns with another massive collection of synthetic retro-futurist funk.


Dâm-Funk

Invite the Light

Label: Stones Throw
Release Date: 2015-09-04

Dâm-Funk has made a name for himself create near note-perfect replications of a very specific type of synthetic funk, one that came to prominence in the early part of the 1980s. Where others generally explore similar sonic territory ironically, Dâm-Funk’s approach is nothing but earnest, often bordering on the reverential. That he manages his highly mechanized beats and often thin synthesized approach to funk and R&B with a straight face is a testament to his dedication to an often overlooked or unfairly maligned era of popular music.

Always prolific -- his first album, Toeachizown consisted of six distinct parts and sprawled well past the two-hour mark -- his latest, Invite the Light clocks in at a whopping 20 tracks over 97 minutes of music. Along the way, he sticks mainly to his primary medium of synth-heavy, jheri curl funk. Enlisting a host of guest artists, including original genre survivor Junie Morrison who warns of a future devoid of funk, he lays out a concept album of sorts about the disintegration of funk music in a dystopian future.

While the narrative may be a bit skewed, Dâm-Funk’s take on early ‘80s funk is anything but. From the production on through to the instrumentation, one would be hard-pressed to accurately date stamp these twenty tracks. So given the sheer volume of existing funk of varying degrees of quality, one has to question the need for still more, especially on an album that so clearly seeks to ape a very particular period and style.

As with his earlier efforts, the answer, thankfully, is yes, the world does need Dâm-Funk and his particular brand of futuristic electro-funk. Positioning his music within the album’s narrative as mankind’s hope for a future full of funk doesn’t hurt either. And given the quality and range of the material on Invite the Light, it’s hard to argue the point as Dâm-Funk has clearly positioned himself as one of the 21st century’s preeminent funk prophets.

On the driving, largely instrumental funk workout “Surveillance Escape", a detached voice tracks the progress of the titular escapee while numerous synths create layer after funky layer overtop a coursing mechanized groove. It’s at once unsettling and endlessly danceable, the type of churning, mechanical funk featured on albums with garish colors and graphics, all sat moldering in the cut-out bins of record stores across the country.

Where other contemporary funk practitioners take on a slightly broader, often more organic approach to the genre, Dâm-Funk is at his best exploring the synthetic. On the mid-tempo ballad “Missing U", he coos and swoons with the best of his ‘80s peers, creating a sound very much of its time and inherently timeless. Being able to transcend time and space seems to be the album’s primary goal, playing with the idea of time and space within a funk context to create a series of songs that fit right alongside their influences, from Prince to Zappa to Junie to any number of interchangeable groove merchants.

Of all the collaborations here, the most left-field is found on “Acting", a duet of sorts with Ariel Pink. And while the pairing doesn’t work quite as well as some of the others, from a stylistic and aesthetic standpoint the idea of the two working together makes perfect sense. Where Pink specializes in channeling a very specific form of pop through a skewed lens, Dâm-Funk manages the same, the only difference being the genre in question. So while the track itself doesn’t necessarily succeed, their having come together feels like a nature meeting of the minds, two fully enmeshed in the past and seeking to explore its inherent possibilities within a contemporary framework; sonic time travelers coming together for a one-off collaboration.

And given the tonal vibe of the album, this idea carries more than a bit of weight. The whole album has a retro sci-fi feel perfectly suited to the music and time period it sets out to evoke. One can imagine watching an accompanying film of the events on a severely degraded VHS cassette, the images themselves rippling in and out of focus as the soundtrack warps and static lines tear through the picture. That Dâm-Funk does nothing to hide his unabashed, unironic love of and for early ‘80s funk records only furthers the legitimacy of the music on Invite the Light.

Further proof of both his love and genre scholarship comes in the form of his collaboration with members of the Sylvers family funk dynasty, Leons III and IV on “Glyde 2nyte". Working with two generations of Sylvers, Dâm-Funk manages to bridge the gap between the genre’s early practitioners and contemporary performers to create a near-perfect hybridization of the two that, more so than perhaps any of the other tracks here, manages to encapsulate the music’s evolution over the past several decades.

Were these recordings made in period, Invite the Light might well be hailed as a lost classic, one criminally overlooked and relegated to the dustbin of pop cultural history. As it stands, it’s a very good approximation of a very specific sound and furthers Dâm-Funk’s reputation and worthiness of his chosen sobriquet. A modern-day prophet for the funk, his is a musical philosophy well worth investigating further.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.