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Published: 2012/03/28
by Wayan Zoey

Funk Ark
High Noon

Esl Music

From the opening notes of “Chaga”, the leadoff track from DC-area afrobeat/funk ensemble Funk Ark’s sophomore release, High Noon, the band lets you know they mean business. While their ESL debut From The Rooftops catered to a more relaxed listening experience, High Noon more accurately represents the energy and experience of seeing this 9+ piece band live, and very nearly assaults the listener with thick grooves, powerful horn stabs, and generally flawless musicianship. Recorded over two days on a stop in Austin while touring in support of their debut, this album bears the hallmarks of being recorded with everyone in the same room, not to mention the sonic sensibilities of producer/musician Adrian Quesada (Ocote Soul Sounds, Groupo Fantasma), that give the album a comfy, vintage vibe, despite the aggressiveness of the actual performances. Each of the individual instruments are very present in the mix, allowing the various band members a greater opportunity to showcase themselves than a large-ensemble recording would normally allow—in particular, the contributions of guitarist Greg Loman, tenor/baritone saxophonist Matt Rippetoe, and bandleader/keyboardist Will Rast (Ocote Soul Sounds, Mr. Lif) benefit from the sonic clarity. All of this wouldn’t amount to much though if the songs themselves weren’t good. Thankfully, the compositions on this outing expand on the stricter afrobeat format adhered to on From The Rooftops to incorporate deeper elements of early funk, salsa, and jazz to create a compelling set of very listenable, and even more danceable, tunes (check out “Rinconito,” which features searing solos from Rast and Loman, for a good example of how the band mixes all those elements together). While it would be easy to lump Funk Ark in with similar afrobeat-inspired outfits such as Antibalas and Budos Band, to do so would overlook the informed jazz-based sensibilities of this welcome addition to the ever expanding scene of east-coast Americans interpreting the style and approach of Fela Kuti.

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