Review Summary: There is a new queen in the funkhood.
Australian deep funk ensemble The Bamboos have always been well considered in the funkesphere for being able to recreate some of the core sounds of the 60s flawlessly, infusing it with modern disco, pop and cinematic psychedelia. Having landed in 2005 in Brighton based label Tru Thoughts, home of artists like Quantic and Hidden Orchestra, their first album Step it Up
introduced a band delivering some quality funk chops with the guest vocals of label mate Alice Russell. The band kept developing their peculiar blend through four fantastic albums, relying more and more on guests singers until peeking with the extraordinary 4
, which not only featured a large roster of vocalists, it also showed founder guitarist Lance Ferguson and co. at the height of their songwriting game with dance floor crushers like “Tears in the Rain” and “On the Sly”.
It was in their second album, Rawville
, where a notorious voice was featured for the very first time in the single “I Don’t Wanna Stop”. Her participation in the band’s music would exponentially increase with every release, until finally stealing the show in the aforementioned 4
. Among the sheer amount of vocalists that have taken part in the music of The Bamboos throughout the years, Australian diva Kylie Auldist have always felt like THE
singer of The Bamboos. Her raspy, Aretha Franklin-like torrent of voice have always felt at home with their soul & funk concoctions. In Fever in the Road
, the band’s previous album, a serious sing-off took place between Auldist and newfound pop singer Ella Thompson, where the two shared vocal duties, each one of them in half of the tracks. Where Auldist would bring that classic Bamboos sound, Thompson felt like a wonderful fling, a much needed gush of fresh air for a band maybe too comfortable in the same cycle for ten years. Thompson was a dangerous affair though, one that invited the colorful Bamboos into Thompson’s darker and dreamier influence, which on the other hand helped to spawn some fascinating tracks like the puzzling “Avenger”.
It took 5 years to know the outcome of that battle for the future of The Bamboos. Not only Auldist seems to have rised victorious, she has somehow managed to become the axis of the band. Yes, Night Time People
is an album constructed and executed around the unmistakably wonderful voice of Kylie Auldist. The instrumental incursions the band used to dwell in their first outcomes have been reduced to one and only track, a homage to the Black Mirror episode of the same name, “San Junipero”, while extra guest vocalists J-Live, Urthboy and Teesy have been relegated to three (dope) versions of the splendid closer “Broken”, placed mercilessly in the album’s tail.
First single and opener “Lit Up” quickly shows The Bamboos haven’t lost any of their magic: rythmic brass stomping their way at the beat of the kick drum for ol’ times sake and Kylie unchained in a phenomenal chorus. “Stranded” and “Salvage Rites” show the band taking a poppier and more laid back approach, with the first one riding on a drum and bass beat to to the band’s most atmospherical approach up to date. “Golden Ticket” displays what The Bamboos know how to do best, sweet and sticky melodies over a jittery funk pattern. Night Time People
’s first half closes almost untarnished but it’s from the title and fifth track, “Night Time People”, where the album starts to slowly unveil its only flaw. The inclusion of a good and well assorted number of singers in every release is something that has always benefitted greatly the music of The Bamboos throughout their career, but in Night Time People
that has been dismissed in favor of a blind and absolute trust in Kylie Auldist as the driving force of the album. By the time tracks like “Backfire” or “You Should’ve Been Mine” hit, The Bamboos’ newest output is already suffering this. What the band have gained in consistency and identity, they have lost it in diversity and freshness and, while it’s definitely not something that drags the album anywhere near the moving sands of boredom, it would have been interesting to see the band risking their safe space once again, like they did in the past with singers like Ella Thompson.
All in all, Night Time People
is a solid comeback for one of the most captivating groups in today’s funk and soul scene, a backbone twisting slab of pop colored funk that reaffirms The Bamboos in their rich and unique sound while keeping their hefty and rich legacy intact.