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Published: 2002/06/28
by Chris Gardner

Expression Sessions – Netwerk: Electric

Harmonized Records 001
Do we need another funk band?
While the funk will still draw the butt-shakin’ masses like proverbial
flies, there is not exactly a void that needs filling. The landscape
is littered with collectives groping for the brass ring. Funk with a dash
of this or that: jazz, groove, soul, hip-hop, house, prog-rock. You name
it, some sucker has mixed it into the funky stew, with funky-bluegrass as
perhaps the greatest offender.
It is no surprise, of course. Ass-shakin’ has long been a national pastime,
and funk is the flavor of choice. It is no challenge to fill the club with
drunk, sweaty (and often rhythmically deficient) people. The challenge now
is to
make that funk last. No, not all night long. Longer. Funk crowds are
notoriously indiscriminate. Keep hittin’ it right there and watch me get
loose, they say. Put it on wax, and the rules change. With the funky
abundance, record buyers can afford to be discriminate in ways that bar
crowds are not.
netwerk: electric has all the ingredients. The requisite airtight rhythm
section is in place, with the standard bass and drums complemented by
percussion. There are two adequate soloists on keys and guitar. They have
and flaunt their stop-on-a-dime skills. They can lay the funk on thick.
They can splice it with jazz. They can stir in the prog. They can compose
segmented pieces that demonstrate their ability to change it up on ya.
But the rules have changed. And that’s just not enough anymore.
When everyone can and does lay down the funk, you have to separate yourself
from the throng. What once seemed small now looms large. You begin
to notice when the majority of the record drives at the same speed. You
notice when the solos walk in small circles, concluding in the same small
space where they began. You notice when a soloist can’t push the tempo to
the crest and ride the breaking wave. You still notice the wicked rhythm
guitar work and the bevy of better sounds bursting from the speaker, but you
also begin to complain when a guitar sound conjures the ghost of Satriani.
Sometimes, a record will feel familiar. It will wrap you like an old
sweater, serve you cocoa, and make you feel at home because it conjures
those old ghosts and reworks them in a such a way that you feel like you
have met your best friend for the first time. It feels foreign and
familiar, ages old and fresh.
Other times, a record will feel familiar in the way that a game show feels
familiar. You already know all the tricks. You have seen every variation
of this. You have heard that voice over before. You are pretty sure that
the lady in the sequined dress was on that other show too. You already know
that you don’t give a damn what is behind Door #2.
expression sessions has enough, "Aha!" moments like the picture
bass and inspired soloing of "Lifted", featuring that ubiquitous purveyor of
funk, Karl Denson for me to guarantee that folks in bars all over the map
feeling it in their hips, but those folks are notoriously indiscriminate.

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