Archive for the ‘Electro’ Category

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Dam-Funk – Toeachizown

February 6, 2010

I have finally finished listening to, in its entirety, Toeachizown, the massive, 140-minute funk album from L.A. “Ambassador of Boogie Funk” Dam-Funk. I committed myself to doing it over a period of several days, listening to large portions of it while on my computer, playing violent video games, walking to work, during any spare ten minute blocks I had on my crappy new Skullcandy headphones, temporary replacements until I fix my nice Bose pair. Having completed this endeavor, I’ll most likely never do it again. I feel no shame in cherry picking from this collection from hereon out, and although I definitely enjoy listening to it, giving it a run as a full album was more exhausting than other collections of comparable length, such as The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs or Wolfgang Voigt’s Nah und Fern. Still, that I’m not completely sick of Dam-Funk by now says a lot for this album’s staying power.

As for what it sounds like, think early electro-funk, or smooth synthesizer laden R&B, maybe early Prince. Cheesy smooth jazz keyboard melodies over steady, heavy beats and iced with even cheesier synthesizer melodies, sometimes complemented by Dam-Funk’s vocals and cheesy lyrics. All that cheese would be far too much if it wasn’t clearly deliberate, and it wasn’t obvious that Dam-Funk knows exactly what he is doing. Andy Kellman at AMG nails it: “It’s got a good beat and you can drive 15 miles per hour to it.” It’s sexy music, but it isn’t quite love making music. Maybe it’s the soundtrack to a sensual, two and a half hour long back rub.

Even when one of these funk epics sounds fantastically embossed, they are still hardly innovative or revolutionary. Sometimes Dam throws down a pretty sick, creative beat like he does on the opening “Let’s Take Off (Far Away).” On this track as well as many others, the beat really pops out much like the work of Madlib and it makes it a little more understandable why Stones Throw Records picked up Dam-Funk for their roster; although his sound is nothing new, it is well established and has the potential to be a valuable asset. Unlike Madlib, whose productions are often elaborate and metamorphic, Dam’s productions are often relatively stationary, holding down the same strong beat for up to eight or nine minutes. It’s easy to imagine instrumental successes here such as “10 West” being played in future Adult Swim blips. When Dam croons “I put the funk down for you continuously, and I’ve got somethin’ to say to you bay-bee” on “One Less Day,” I find myself not just chuckling but also dropping my jaw a little. It’s kind of amazing how much Dam ends up being able to do with his limited tools.

The first big question on my mind has been, why the length? Dam-Funk compiled the tracklist of Toeachizown from a series of 2009 LPs also titled Toeachizown, and this 5 LP (2 CD) box set only curbs five tracks off of the original series. Why Stones Throw would chose to release the new signee’s first release as such a massive, potentially un-sellable piece like this is anyone’s guess. Also, the original LPs could feasibly have been released, unchanged, in box set form, but clearly Dam thought some kind of editing was necessary, and yet couldn’t bear to cut it down to the length of a single, more concise album. So what we’re left with is a sprawling, exhausting album that seems to be well aware of itself.

Is it superfluous? Absolutely. Indulgent? Necessarily. In fact, it seems like Dam uses the album’s scope to his advantage in an attempt to make this album a monolith of electro-funk, and it sure sounds like he succeeds. Above all else Toeachizown is brimming with highlights that keep it incredibly listenable for how long it is and a continuously rewarding release. There are some truly classic vocal R&B cuts (“One Less Day,” “I Wanna Thank You,” likely several more I haven’t fully discovered), experimental flourishes and solid grooves. Even if you only just like its style, this album will most likely have the gravity to pull you in for further listening. Toeachizown is a late 2009 highlight and a truly essential R&B album in a genre where those are few and far between these days, and yet it will almost certainly not be picked up by any mainstream radio stations and has already dodged most credible indie sources. Here’s to hoping that Dam-Funk will find a new audience as this album serves as the soundtrack to many a lowriding sunset not just in L.A., but across the country as this album gets slowly discovered in the new year and as Summer approaches.