Brandon Coleman's 'Resistance' Is a Record by an Unabashed Futurist

Photo courtesy of Ninja Tune Records

Funk-jazz polymath Brandon Coleman's sophomore LP is a memorable record by an unabashed futurist steeped in funk, jazz, electronica, and everything in-between.

Brandon Coleman


Resistance, the sophomore LP from funk-jazz polymath Brandon Coleman, begins with "Live For Today", and "Live For Today" begins with weightlessness. There's no gravity; just motion. An orchestral swell sends you floating through space, but this space isn't some endless void bereft of light and substance. It's a kaleidoscopic space of swirling colors and iridescent planets and strange cosmic shapes without name or origin. Then, a beat bullets forward, and these colors and planets and shapes start speeding past you. It's unclear whether you're moving or if your surroundings are. But it doesn't matter; it's the feeling of motion itself -- a free fall where there is no fear of the earth, where there is no fear of anything at all -- that counts.

"Just come with me / And baby you'll see / That the future's far away / There's no time for us to waste," Coleman sings, his voice vocoderized but still remarkably distinct. It's a lyric that not only summarizes his philosophy, but also the philosophy that guided the synth-funk auteurs who inspired him: George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, and Zapp's Roger Troutman, among a host of others who emblazoned their album covers with cosmonauts (think Hancock's Flood and Thrust), flying saucers (Parliament's Mothership Connection), and other unidentifiable yet oddly stylish spacecraft (Graham Central Station's My Radio Sure Sounds Good to Me).

For these artists, the future was "far away" but never out of reach. Always, it was something to strive for. Through their music, which spanned across genres and decades but invariably foregrounded the synthesizer as a means of reshaping reality, they surged toward the future as they saw it, never content to waste their time with Top 40 tropes or mainstream conventions. They surrounded themselves with science fiction iconography, but they backed up it up with music that sounded like it was beamed in from another world. You can hear the same restless experimentalism on Resistance, a memorable, albeit inconsistent, record by an unabashed futurist steeped in funk, jazz, electronica, and everything in-between.

An L.A. native, Coleman made his name as a fixture in Kamasi Washington's acclaimed prog-jazz band. He stepped out on his own with 2011's Self Taught, a record that, while intermittently compelling, made virtually no impact. Since then, Coleman has kept busy, working with jazz luminaries across the west coast and marquee names like Flying Lotus and Thundercat. But this constant stream of collaborations, with indie and pop musicians alike, took a toll on him.

"I've been in the studio a lot in recent years, writing with this or that artist and I always felt constrained, like I had to compromise," he explained. "This time I just wanted to create something that was really free, something original, to incorporate all the styles that I represent, because often when I've tried to do that in the past, it's been met with resistance."

Coleman, for the most part, achieves what he set out to do. Each song on Resistance feels playful and unencumbered, like the work of an artist given full license to indulge in his eccentricities. "Just Reach for the Stars" is a glittering mid-tempo strut that turns the dance floor into a place of worship for some cosmic being. "Giant Feelings", the album's lead single, melds horns, strings, digitized wails, and an implacable backbeat into something, at once, cohesive and falling apart at the seams. Tracks like "Addiction" and "Sexy" are forged from sheer funk exuberance.

However, most of the songs here also reveal Coleman's Achilles heel: his futurism is, by all accounts, old-fashioned. In Hancock's hands, in the synth-stabbed soundscapes concocted by Clinton and Troutman and their peers, this kind of funk engendered vague but stirring visions of what the future of pop might sound like. Here, they inspire little more than nostalgia; that, and an appreciation for Coleman's ability to pay homage to his idols.

The closest Coleman gets to something frontier-pushing is "All Around the World". Slick, modern, and effortless, its nu-disco fervor would not only have fit on Daft Punk's stunning Random Access Memories, it would have stood out. By the track's end, you find yourself back in the swirling cosmic space from "Live For Today". Synth squiggles zoom past you like satellites; Coleman's intonations echo like an alien tongue. If he can make more music like this, where the future sounds like something ahead of us rather than a motif handed down from the past, then we have a lot to look forward to.





90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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