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Published: 2016/08/05
by Laron Sutton

The Motet
Totem

The Motet, like all great practitioners of funk, is cerebral on the sly. As the title of the Colorado band’s eighth album, Totem is both anagram and emblem; emerging from a personnel reshuffle that introduces the hot-coals soul of new singer Lyle Divinsky, as the band stacks its influences into a tower of power. Regional dialects—as diverse as the Bay Area retro-burst on the opening “The Truth” or the NYC roller-rink disco of “Fool No More,” to the Crescent City sound of “Know It Too Well” and the Kingston one-drop “Contraband”—connect through staccato stabs of bayonet-sharp brass and bedrock bass and drums. The 12-track set, written collectively by the sevenpiece ensemble, loosens as it tightens. Unbridled sax improvisation finds room to run within lockstep arrangements. Electronica mingles with mirror-ball R&B. Percussive Latin bumps hips with Motor City slinks. Carving out space with precision and parity for all is producer Eric Krasno, who allows each cut to spotlight the individual as brightly as the group. For his part, Divinsky is a terrific fit, complementing the grooves laid down by bandleader/drummer Dave Watts with passionate cool. Here’s hoping, for a band that has undergone several lineup changes in its relatively short history, that Totem stands as a symbolic pillar of the Motet tribe as one united, strong and forever funky.

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