Thursday, October 16, 2014

Report to the Dance Floor: Watkins Music

A brother and sister duo out of L.A. is more than slightly familiar with the house scene that came out of Chicago in mid to late 80's.. To call this pop music would not be fair to the very intricate arrangement of this song that milks the most groove possible out of itself. Once saw Sade described as sophistipop and that could very well apply here. At the same time this might not seem like dance to those of you too young to remember when dance was once an organic entity. They have captured that timeless place in the groove, so even when the song begins to sounds 70's it does so in a way that comes around full circle not unlike Daft Punk's more recent Grammy award winning work of recent years. there are strange little bursts of sound effects that bring it into 2014 for a few seconds and then back to Saturday Night Fever.

The rhythms are more complex than anything in the soul/ dance cross over market, almost like if Herbie Hancock had wanted to make a disco jazz-fusion album. This is not just a trademark of  their new single "One life One Love" but this thoughtful approach is also prevalent in some of Watkins Music other songs like "Black Widow, though the male vocal is more dominant in "Black Widow and the formula developed on "One Life One Love" seems to  work best with their voices playing off one another.That kind of vocal blend is rare to find.

"One Life One Love"  opens with an ultra- dexterous bass line  courtesy of Taiki Tsuyama . Tsuyama is a Japanese bassist, who cut his teeth playing bass in the Gospel Circuit. His playing is a mix of Bootsy and Pastorious. The bass propels the song. When it comes to serving the song and laying back to hold down the groove and reminds me more of bassists Paul S Denman from Sade's band..The  shades of Kool and the Gang are no coincidence as their guitar Noah Hernandez also plays with Rodney Ellis of Kool and the Gang, so Watkins Music searched in all the right places for their session guys.  The pedigree of talent doesn't stop there as the Horn Arrangements and brass section were handled by Winston Byrd who has played with a who's who of Jazz,, Soul and funk including the Chi-lites, the Dells the Stylistics Chaka Khan, Usher and Charles Mingus's Big Band. He knows where to throw the accents in the old school manner that makes this sound all the more authentic.

It is often said that common secret among CEO's is they surround themselves with people smarter than they are. I think left to their often devices this brother and sister team have enough musical smarts to compete, but the factor that pushes this track and others over the edge into greatness is the level of talent they have gathered to just to make what but first listen might be a retro tinged dance / pop song. It is layered with so many textures of groove that the tight vocal work Airreal has achieved with Adrian Battle here is just  the icing on this cake.  In a world of disposable pop, where so called r&b has nothing at all to to with the blues in the b, something like this is a glimmer of hope in a hungry money machine that has brought the music business to a Walking Dead like desolation.

I am interested in hearing what these two could lay out in terms of a full length. The other songs I have hunted down all are of similar caliber. If you are on more of an electronic bent rather than the more funk influenced side of dance then it might take some broadening of horizons to fully take this in.Would it go in a more overt dance direction or venture off into more progressive Parliament or Earth Wind and Fire direction. If you like to get stoned while listening to sound tracks from Quintin Tarintino movies then this will be on tap for your next burn session. Check out this track and their video for "Metronome" below

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