Tag Archives: funk


Album Review: MNDSGN – Body Wash

a3786040268_10In his newest release Body Wash, Mndsgn (née Ringgo Ancheta) brings us on an inter-dimensional electro-funk adventure through space and time, combining psychedelia and R&B in masterful and innovative ways. In his words, Body Wash is “a soul record that plays with nostalgic elements in a very dynamic & positive way. Think about it as a box of crayons for you to draw emotions with.”

In conjunction with this description, the album is loosely based on an illusory story that goes something like this: a homeless man meets an enigmatic woman who offers to take him in, and then has him bathe with a strange body wash that surrounds him as he soaks. Eventually, he is transported to an alternate dimension. The narrative is a subtle one; though looser themes of self-realization and human connection are easily identifiable from the tracks, it is only through the track titles (“Enter Her Abode,” “Prelude 2 Purification,” and “Lather” to name a few) along with album title that hint at the underlying story. 

So, we’ve established that Mndsgn is not your typical R&B producer. It may have something to do with his childhood history and his past collaborations: he was raised on a commune in rural New Jersey by Filipino immigrants, and in the early 2000’s befriended and then collaborated with Kendrick Lamar producer Knxwledge to form the Klipm0de crew. He moved to L.A to pursue his beat passion and was featured in various albums (notably, Blasphemous Jazz’s Bitches Brew) before releasing his debut album, Yawn Zen.

Body Wash provides a glimpse at Mndsgn’s growth and exploration as an artist since Yawn Zen, which was more of a sprawling, wandering experiment of an album. His sophomore release is tighter, more produced, and more focused; the frequent inclusion of his own vocals is a welcome addition as well. Ancheta’s voice serves as a quiet, unobtrusive addition to fluorescent and layered instrumentals, floating in and out of music as if from a dream. At times, it adds air of introspection; at others, it serves as an echo for the music, reflecting and deepening the message without driving it. 

There is a clear directional quality to Body Wave, marked physically with a beginning (“Overture”) and an ending (“Guess It’s All Over”). The album is awash in vintage 80’s and 90’s R&B themes, with fluctuating tones overlaid to set the mood of the track.  Some tracks have more of a jazz influence (“Release Ya Mind (Twentyfourseven)”), while others are straight funk (“Vague//Recalibrate”). All throughout Body Wash is the riff of psychedelic influences and modern synth; Mndsgn samples from retro sounds, but does not entirely channel the past, choosing instead to use it as a platform onto which he can build his soundscape.

Nota bene: It has been recommended (and I would echo this sentiment) to listen to the album all the way through. The tracks build on one another to establish a common thread, and while the listener may have to hone in on a few songs to realize their potential, it is best to let Body Wash soak in slowly over time.

Album released: September 16, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam



Album Review: Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

31d39fa4Esperanza Spalding is not an artist who disappoints. Nor is she predictable.

Her latest release, Emily’s D+Evolution, has shown an exceptional rebirth of creativity and innovation from the prodigal bassist/singer-songwriter. Using her jazz background as a pedestal, she constructs an intricately structured opus incorporating funk and alt-rock elements to create an experimental blend of performance art, theatre, improvisation, and classic storytelling through song.

The title, Emily’s D+Evolution, is based on Spalding’s “alter ego,” a free spirited young girl named Emily (Spalding’s middle name). Spalding sings about the world as seen through Emily’s eyes, using her as a musical muse. She claims using this alter ego gave her a fresh start to her work, a way to approach the concept of music anew. The album represents a rebirth of creativity for Spalding, a return to the childlike wonder and ingenuity. Emily’s D+Evolution opens with the lyrics, “See this pretty girl / Watch this pretty girl flow,” an immediate introduction to the muse behind the melody.

As for the artistry, Spalding does not disappoint. She has tremendous vocal talent, easily ranging multiple octaves from a honeyed alto to a soaring falsetto in one breath. Her lyrics are complex and intelligent, a mix of story, song, and spoken word poetry. The instrumentals are expertly layered, with intricate melodies and subtle key changes; at times an ebb and flow, at others an overwhelming roller coaster of emotion and rhythm.

While it is recommended to listen to Emily’s D+Evolution all the way through to get the full experience, some tracks deserve high praise. The opener, “Good Lava,” is all at once a dissonant, explosive, and seductive first track. It shocks the listener, screaming at them to pay good attention – without ever raising its voice. “Judas” provides a respite from this overwhelming sensation. Spalding’s vocals are lilting and low, fluid in tempo and rhythm; a hybrid of song and spoken word. Her bass-playing is prominently displayed, with stripped-down cymbals and accompanying electric and acoustic guitars.

“Rest In Pleasure” is intimate, and again the production has been pulled back, letting Spalding’s lyrics and vocals shine through. She is accompanied by a female call-and-response for the chorus, adding a layer of sensuality and delicacy to the track. A crescendo is present in the latter half of the song, where the volume, intensity, and instrumental layering all increase. “Ebony and Ivy” is a dead-ringer for a poetry slam performance put to music, starting out with rapid-fire, monotone lyrics that soon swing into pensive vocals and a jolting melody.

Emily’s D+Evolution ends with a peculiar track, “I Want It Now,” which apparently is an homage to Veruca Salt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. More theatre than song, it is an ending both surprising and surprisingly fitting: seeing as the muse is supposedly a young girl, the emulation of unfettered desire through a popular literary character is a perfect, though subtle, solution to end such a complex album. Overall, Emily’s D+Evolution is a piece of art, off-kilter and unhinged just enough to be unique and noteworthy. It pushes boundaries without being disorganized, and flirts with the blurred lines between performance and production in a way that leaves the listener exhilarated. Though it is unclear what paths she will pursue next, Spalding is certainly one rising star to watch closely and with great excitement.

Album released: March 4, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 



Album Review: After Funk – ‘Til the Sun Comes Up


When I first heard Yanik Allwood’s voice I was pleasantly surprised.  The first song on After Funk’s new album ‘Til The Sun Comes Up begins in semi-typical funk album fashion sporting a phat bass line, and dancing horn melody and as the song progresses I’m expecting more splendid regularity, but then this beautifully subtle soul voice comes out of nowhere and immediately captures my attention.  This moment somewhat summarizes the feeling evoked by the band. After Funk creates funk music in a way that both harkens back to the greats and calls for motion into the future expertly navigating the familiar and new resulting in an intriguing voice in the funk idiom. Continue reading


Album Review: Busty and the Bass – Glam


Busty and the Bass has been a big topic of discussion around the McGill bubble and the entire city of Montreal over the past year and with the release of their new album, Glam, it appears the band can do no wrong. Notorious for their charismatic stage presence, precise horn lines, and ‘expect the unexpected’ attitude, Busty and the Bass have created an album indicative of their live energy without sacrificing musicality. Continue reading


Tune-into Dragonroot Radio, Tues @ 8h30-9h for a k u a

a k u a is playing live in studio Tuesday, January 17 from 8h30-9h.

She’s a local emerging musical talent whose lyrics and melodies will keep bouncing around between your ears long after you hear them. Find more of her music here: myspace.com/akuaunplugged.
Listen back to this and any other Dragonroot session here: www.centre2110.org/media/dragonrootradio/