The Whitefield Brothers – Breaking Through ft. El Michels Affair / Taisho

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The Whitefield Brothers – Breaking Through ft. El Michels Affair

The Whitefield Brothers – Taisho

About 7 years ago The Whitefield Brothers (aka Poets of Rhythm) released a psych-funk cult classic In The Raw. Now they’re back with a follow-up called Earthology.

In the Raw lived up to its name – it was hard hitting, a little weird, a little angular, uncompromising in the drive to create a sound that was both an homage to classic instrumental funk of the past and an advancement into new territory. When news of Earthology was announced I was honestly a little skeptical, as it pointed in a dicey direction. The label write up promised globe trotting for inspiration, experimentation with esoteric instruments, guest vocalists and rappers, etc. Records that come with these kinds of descriptions often end up near disastrous disjointed affairs, long on ambition but ultimately more ‘interesting’ than enjoyable.

So now I’ve had a chance to hear it, and it seems my apprehensions were mostly unfounded. It’s a complicated album that will take some time to fully digest, but my initial impressions are positive. Collaborations with The Dap Kings, El Michels Affair and Quantic come off swimmingly. African themed Sad Nile and Sem Yelesh channel Mulatu Astatke with an easy going reverence. Taisho plays like a pan-cultural jam session in which Bedouins and Mongolians learn about hard drums. In short, there is a lot to like.

There are some weak spots too… for instance I’m not really into Percee P and Med, so their contribution does nothing for me. Joyful Exaltation (the opening track featuring Bajka) reminds me of something by The Art Ensemble of Chicago, which I’m generally not a fan of. Chich sounds like Santa’s elves wylin’ out on some exotic version of a xylophone, and not in a good way. Who knows, maybe these will grow on me with time.

It’s hard to predict how this will play with the general public. It might be a little too weird for some, even for fans of more traditional acts like The Budos Band or The Menahan Street Band. But if you have any passing interest in ‘different’ funk and jazz I would definitely recommend at least giving the album a try.

If you wanna hear a little more, I posted the first single from this album in November here.

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