For those of you who thought neo-soul was big in the '90s with Me'Shell Ndegeocello and India Arie, let me pass on this information: you ain't seen nothing yet! Granted, Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones are making music that's a far cry from Erykah Badu, but you can still hear Aretha and Etta in the belting and Muscle Shoals tightness in the instrumentation. This is music rooted in funk, soul, Motown, and R&B, and it's the kind of music that's likely to send chills down your spine and "make you wanna shout" (a little bit softer now?).
With all of these soul classics spinning on contemporary artist's MP3 players, I wasn't really surprised to discover the Orgone band. I was a little surprised to find that this band has been recording music for seven years now. I had never heard their funky tunes until I stumbled upon their name on a KEXP playlist (thank my music-loving friends who pass along excellent resources). Now I'm jamming with their latest album adventure, The Killion Floor. It's got your Meters-inspired funk, your soulful/gospel jams, some Afrobeat-ish explorations, and a couple of almost-Disco boogie songs that are saved by their close relation to Jamiroquai (you can't say bad things about Jam).
The sound on this album is galvanic, infectious even, appropriate given the fact that the band's name is a reference to Orgone energy, a kind of life-force apparently "discovered" by the scientist Wilhelm Reich in the 1930s. I've read about Reich before, and I think he was just building upon an idea that's been thrown around in the Eastern part of the world for centuries (can anyone say chi?). He did, however, have some other interesting scientific theories, including the Orgone accumulator which is an energy-focusing box (fans of Kerouac will remember this from On The Road), and a "cloudbuster" or weather-controlling machine. You can read about Wilhelm Reich online, but I do digress, and really what I want to tell you about is music.
The Killion Floor starts with a steady groove and some funky organ on "Easin (Introlude)", and continues with the fantastically Aretha-esque "Who Knows Who?". I can't tell you if the title of this song is purposely suggestive of "Who's Zoomin Who?", but I do know that the music is closer to Aretha's roots than to her more contemporary songs. It's the song of a powerful woman who has been treated with less respect than she's due. Imagine "Think" or "Chain Of Fools" with cleaner production values and a huskier-voiced songstress. This songstress, by the way, is Fanny Franklin who serendipitously shares her surname with the Queen of Soul. "Sophisticated Honky" is a jam bursting with guitar riffage that would make the great Blues geniuses smile. It also owns a jazzy horn section that's tight, smooth, and funky fresh.
This music is is delicious, and the album is jam-packed with sound. Not only do the majority of the songs clock in at over four minutes, but there are also a whopping eighteen tracks stuffed onto The Killion Floor. For those music lovers who go for quality over quantity, you'll find plenty to rave about on this album. "Dialed Up" channels Jamiroquai, and is one of those tracks that even people who listened to "their music" in a closet when disco was popular could find entertaining. My favorite songs on the album stay away from the disco stuff, but are also inherently entertaining. The trio of "Justice League", "Funky Nassau", and "Lone Ranger" are meant for greatness in some spaghetti western martial arts comedy. "Justice League" combines the Meters' climbing funk with the beating rhythm of Afrobeat. "Funky Nassau" pulls in a tight vocal and a little wah-wah action to make you shake your hips. "Lone Ranger" takes the cake with an almost Reggae smoothness and a semi-sinister undertone. You can just imagine the possibilities of these three songs as soundtrack music.
The Killion Floor is a force of nature as far as musical experiences go. This is the kind of album that anyone could lose themselves in; but, it is a special rabbit-hole for the musical Alice's who haven't had enough soul Wonderland. My advice to you lovely readers is to set aside an afternoon and chill, because great funk and soul cannot be rushed. It's an experience that should savored.