The lead in single to Dam-Funk’s new “Invite the Light” LP, “We Continue”, an anthemic inspirational funk banger, is one we covered a few weeks ago on “Music for the Next ONE”. Since then the full album has dropped, and with it a bunch of funk goodies, from Glide Tonight”, to “Howugonnafuckaroundandchooseabusta”, to the beautiful triumph of “Virtous Progression.” The song we are showcasing this weekend, “O.B.E”, is a body rocking, uptempo electro/disco/funk record that can get anybody moving,doing any activity, from vacuuming your house on a Saturday morning, to switching lanes on the expressway in the afternoon, to cutting some smooth steps in your best shoes that night at the club. It’s got a slick sophistication that could play at glamorous watering holes like The Buddha Bar in Paris, but also takes you back to the hood in the late ’70s and 1980’s.
The song begins with a four bar percussion break, the type that disco records used to set the dancing tempo from the get-go. The drums pound out a quick tempo’ed disco beat, kick drums banging on all fours, with a slight echo to them that creates a rolling, tribal Indian type of polyrhythm. This is supported by party time hand claps on the two and four beats. On top of it all is a sizzling hot shaker pattern, like you would find in African and Afro-Latin music. The rhythmic intensity reminds me of an electrified version of B.T Express disco-funk hits like “Express” and the Native American influenced, “Peace Pipe.” After four bars Dam brings in the beautiful California sun ray, long tone chords that are his trademark. Quite characteristic of his music is the way he gives the chords lots of room to breathe, playing on for almost fourteen bars before he brings the bass line in. The bass line wanders in, a funky, hyperactive synth line. The synth bass is jiterry sixteenth notes, very upbeat. It’s a call and response type of pattern, three notes answered by four notes. A funky rhythmic relationship is set up between the slow long keyboard tones up top, the steady pounding drums, the fast and consistent shakers, and the fast and sporadic bass line, a polyrhythmic stew that gives the body different things to move to.
In a whisper, Dam suggests phrases like “Don’t cross your legs/don’t close your eyes.” These sound like dance song type instructions but also might be instructions on the albums theme, how to “Invite the Light.” Dam’s layers of keyboard rhythm include a Rhodes or similar electric piano type sound, playing an eighth note pattern that also ends up being held as a chord. After a while the bass plays a computeristic, robot sequence type bass riff that serves as an interlude to kick the bass groove back off. At 2:54 into the track the synth bass let’s off it’s relentless intensity, playing a simpler pulsing line. Dam begins to bring his singing more to the forefront, repeating his instructions in a more audible falsetto. The groove continues on, with Dam Funk breaking it down, singing his exhortations, and revving it back up to carry us to the fade.
“O.B.E” is a good example of what I like to call “T Tops music”, music that has an early ’80s vibe that reminds me of the time cars with T-Tops were popular. Dam Funk’s lush synth pads conjure up the dreamy associations of sunshine and sun rays that make up the California of both myth and memory. When I think of his music, what usually comes to mind is slower, bumping West coast phat tracks. This joint offers something a little different, an uptempo, cyborg funk stepper that would have worked well on the soundtrack to “Tron: Legacy.” “Invite the Light” is a wonderful diverse album of funk styles that must be purchased and played for the funk of today to flourish.