Friday, May 19, 2017

The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space

The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space 

The power and undeniable energy that The Chameleon Project brings to the ten songs on Funk n Space isn’t something we’ve heard much of in recent years. The Toronto four piece burn with rare ambition bringing together an array of musical styles into a signature approach that doesn’t seem like it would work, but nonetheless sparks with genuine and artful creativity. Led by guitarist and vocalist Josh Laing, the quartet tackles the songs with a wild and wooly willingness to try anything once and the gambler mentality driving these compositions and performances make Funk n Space a truly revelatory experience. This fiery blend of funk, EDM, disco, jazz, dub, and rock is absolutely irresistible. They show some obvious influences from bands like The Disco Biscuits, John Scofield, and Bonobo, but there’s little question before half of the album has concluded that The Chameleon Project play by their own rules and make it work on the basis of talent alone.  

Despite the influences cited above, The Chameleon Project has their own identity and it’s clear from the outset. “Milky Way” takes a number of musical elements onto its back and makes it all work. The keyboards and drumming are particularly effective here and the incidental human voices rising out of the mix are further adornments that set the performance apart here and elsewhere on the album. It’s a relatively bold move to open your album with the second longest song on the release, coming in at a little over six minutes in length, but “Milky Way” never feels that long and there doesn’t seem to be even a sliver of wasted motion in the track. “Steppin’” shares a similar economy despite its length and shows off the band’s penchant for pouring old wine into new bottles with ingenious revamping of standard reggae tropes. It mixes the electronic textures that are one of the band’s hallmarks with the usual approach to this form. This primarily instrumental album continues to impress with the art rock style distinguishing “Kraken”, though it is a little disheartening to hear such an obviously intelligent band opt for ambient aquatic songs in a song about a water beast. It makes sense for them to do so and they never succumb to overkill, but it just seems a little too obvious.  

“Reactor” is the first outright foray into EDM territory, but The Chameleon Project mixes up the punches with some stunning guitar work that achieves unexpected lyrical heights thanks to its phrasing. It makes utter sense to pair this track with the follow up “Bigfoot” – The Chameleon Project opts to go even more sharply in a rock music direction with its forceful drumming, but they keep things surprising with an approach to the guitar playing quite distinct from what we would hear mainstream rock acts ever dare. The final song on Funk n Space, “Wako”, shows a little bit of playfulness, but it’s largely a kind of final musical statement summarizing everything the band’s covered to this point. It can stand on its own, however, as a monumental fusion of the band’s tendencies rather than merely elaborating on what has come before.  Funk n Space has the sort of keen-eared take on genre hopping that such experiments deserve, but they’ve also managed to craft an album with the potential to appeal across a wide spectrum.  

Scott Wigley

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