Set phasers to funk: Dâm-Funk’s Invite the Light

The funk is more a sentiment than a strict musical genre. It’s a fun, pulsing feeling that doesn’t take itself too seriously, birthing such keystone achievements as The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”. It’s also something that’s undergone a number of invigorating resurgences and territorial crossovers since its conception. Some have been transcendent, obliterating preconceptions of what the funk could or should be, while others have bordered on the downright ridiculous.

In this sense, Californian producer Dâm–Funk might just be its modern epitome. Almost concealed behind his signature keyboards and drum machines, silky Super Fly locks and array of grandiose outfits, he cuts an enigmatic, cartoonish caricature. A synthesiser proselytiser, if you will. He curates the funk and its many branches, flying them into a 21st century party on an intergalactic Cadillac like some kind of time-travelling funk shepherd.

Back in 2009 his monster full-length debut Toeachizown ignited a huge flame of excitement and expectation, flickering on through a slew of favourable shorter releases, including 2013’s Higher – with funk icon Steve Arrington – and this year’s STFU, released in June as a free download. But the fire was always burning toward his follow-up LP, now arriving after six years in the eccentric shape of 80-minute odyssey Invite the Light.

Though strongly nodding its head toward Zapp’s iconic Moog-boogie and the afrofuturistic George Clinton/P-Funk mothership, Invite the Light’s influences are varied, ranging from reasonably straight funk and pop into an ambiguous space between jazz, DnB, electro and trap. With his almost ironic bombastic swagger Dâm makes it work, serving up some of the catchiest, most direct and diverse funk-suffused tracks of recent times.

Combining syrupy, saccharine sexual innuendo with bottomless G-funk production, openers “We Continue” and “Somewhere, Someday” are dancefloor-ready vehicles of fuzzy pitchfucks and neck-snapping bubblegum bounce. The new wave hallucination of “Glyde 2nyte” and the Snoop Dogg-featured “Just Ease Your Mind From All Negativity” sees the party continue, offering a seedy, drug-fuelled soundtrack to the narratives of the late night. It feels especially apt to have the one of the funk’s most recognizable apostles guest on the latter; the track almost tailor-made to glide effortlessly beneath his familiar nonchalance.

The likes of “Floating On Air”, “It Didn't Have 2 End This Way” and “Virtuous Progression” provide brief moments of relaxation from the all-out festivities, their shimmering synths running directly parallel to the album’s sheeny artwork. Indolent bedroom pop meets indolent bedroom funk as Ariel Pink stops by on “Acting”, while ethereal scats spring erratically from the warm, soulful “Scatin' (Toward the Light)”. Though there’s something a little bit different all down the track list, Dâm, being the vigilant groovitect he is, keeps a careful eye on the central pulse.

But the biggest challenge of anything with rhythm at its core is to ensure repetition doesn’t translate into tedium. There’s a very similar kind of instrumental and structural formula for each of Invite the Light’s 17 tracks, something as hindering as it is palpable during such a long listen. At times it feels as if the intergalactic Cadillac has been flicked into cruise control, though there’s bound to be a few superfluous or throwaway moments in any 80-minute epic. These moments yield only a minor afterglow, but like any good party, deliver an abundance of pleasure and playfulness in the present.

The funk at its best is empowering and holistic, a sentiment capable of liberating anyone or anything submitting themselves to its potency. It doesn’t discriminate, and can manifest itself in many shapes or forms. With Invite the Light, Dâm dips his righteous hand into the vast funkosphere, extracting some of its weirdest and most wonderful moments, and assembling them into a longwinded love letter to its complete existence – past, present and future. It’s not utterly faultless, but one thing is for sure: it’s a good time. A Dâm good time.

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