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Rewinding July | The Best Grooves

Sault, Mulatu Astatke, Dedicated Men of Zion and the rest of the month's top discs.

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Sure, you want the funk. You need the funk. You gotta have the funk. But some rap, R&B and soul never hurt either. Here are July’s finest, freakiest and funkiest releases in alphabetical order. Click on the cover picture to go to the original review page (where you should also be able to listen to the album in full):

 


The Allergies
Say the Word

Nobody seems to love old-school soul, funk and R&B quite as much as the Brits. And nobody puts it all together — along with dashes of disco, rap, hip-hop, dancehall, psychedelia and more — like this Bristol collective does once again on their latest full-length throwback If you didn’t know better, you might think these 13 authentically old-school cuts were obscure singles from some serious crate-diggers. Which I guess they are, in a way. Bottom line: The Allergies are nothing to sneeze at.


Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience
To Know Without Knowing

Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian vibraphonist who pioneered Ethio-jazz more than half a century ago, has been sampled by legions of rappers and producers in the decades since, and has worked with everyone from Heliocentrics to Jim Jarmusch. Black Jesus Experience are a new-generation horn-laced Australian octet who add funk and hip-hop to the mix, adding their own unique variation to the Afro-jazz scene. On To Know Without Knowing — their second full-length collaboration — they deliver nine hybrid cuts that dynamically and boldly fuse their individual strengths to create hypnotic and seductive grooves that are more than the sum of their parts. But you don’t have to know all that to know whether or not you’ll dig these laid-back, pan-cultural headnodders. You will.


ATA Records
The Library Archive, Vol. 1

From the people who brought you The SorcerersIn Search Of The Lost City Of The Monkey God, here’s another batch of vintage-sounding soul and funk instrumentals straight from the imaginary soundtracks to the best blaxploitation flicks that were never made. Sign me up for the sequel.


Dedicated Men of Zion
Can’t Turn Me Around

You can gaze upward and get down at the same time. At least these guys can. The North Carolina gospel quartet serve up all the heavenly harmonies, reverent melodies and organ-laced spirituals you expect on this debut album. But they also let down their hair and kick up their heels with some tracks that feature gruffer vocals and rougher southern-fried arrangements more suited to Saturday night than Sunday morning. Can they get an Amen? Hell yes they can.


Greyhounds
Primates

I always forget how soulful and funky this Austin duo is. Maybe it’s because of their name; Greyhounds makes them sound like they should be lean, high-strung and fast. Instead, they’re mellow, warm and easygoing. Maybe Labradors would be a better handle for them. In any case, they’ve got another winner with this eighth batch of deep grooves, rich arrangements and smooth baritone vocals.


Sault
Untitled (Black Is)

The anonymous Afro-futurist collective Sault (which may or may not co-star London producer Inflo and American vocalist Kid Sister) first grabbed the music world’s attention little more than a year ago with their groundbreaking debut album 5, followed a few months later by the equally impressive 7. But it’s their third release Untitled (Black Is) that truly mesmerizes you with 56 artful and stylish minutes of deep-groove funk, post-modern R&B and neo-soul dedicated to the struggle for racial equality in America and around the world. Fittingly surprise-released on Juneteenth, with proceeds going to charity, it’s timely and timeless, motivated and moving, potent and powerful, grand and glorious — in other words, everything that great art can and should be.