An 11-piece disco bonanza, lunar synth pop and an alien funk godfather land in Melbourne in September.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
American music would simply not be the same without the influence of George Clinton. There would be no Dr Dre or Warren G. No YG or Kendrick, Flying Lotus or Thundercat. No Janelle Monae, Dawn Richard and Erykah Badu. Many of these artists have sampled his work or worked with their idol directly. Hell, he even produced Freaky Styley, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers second album.
Some people cite Pink Floyd’s the Wall tour beginning in 1980 as a high watermark in conceptual stage design. But I’ll be dammed if a bunch of cardboard boxes could ever be considered cooler than the “Landing of The Holy Mothership”.
This intergalactic party craft – also known as the P-Funk Mothership – descended on stages across the USA in 1976, bearing down on Earth via the forces of advanced disco-ball technology. Upon landing, George Clinton aka Dr Funkinstein would step out of its mirrored doors to funkify the masses. The ship is considered to be of such deep cultural importance it was purchased by the Smithsonian Institution in 2011.
But alongside party lunacy, Clinton and his bands Parliament and Funkadelic gave birth to Afrofuturism decades before the term was first coined. (In the parallel world of the Afrofuturist, the shackles of white oppression have failed to hold back a utopian African-American society from flourishing.)
Clinton was a wild character who wrote songs called “Maggot Brain”, “The Electric Spanking of War Babies” and “Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (the Doodoo Chasers”). At 76, it’s hard to say whether the ravages of time have added to his mania in a good way, but like visiting a crazy relative, it’s no excuse to avoid paying your respects.
On “Crescent” – a single from the band’s debut album Overflow – singer Memphis LK and band mate Cesar Rodrigues use the phases of the moon to describe the complexity of a relationship: one minute completely exposed, the next reduced to a sliver – the thing you once new intimately, now obscured and out of reach.
Celestial forces seem to be at play elsewhere on the record. The bass shifts like sandbars under a heavy tide. The synths reflecting off the ocean, sparkle from the light of stars before disappearing as a cloud passes overhead.
This isn't to say the music is filled with darkness. It’s just more of a northern lights kind of uplift than Tahitian sunset. A lunar, rather than solar eclipse.
Their September show, which launches new album Overflow, will see the predominantly electronic act swell to five members using layered vocals, analogue synths, guitar, samples and drums. This is one Melbourne act to watch closely.
It’s taken far too long for the new Milk Teddy record to come out into the world. The five-piece Melbourne band’s last record Zingers came out in 2012. Debut album’s from Twerps and Dick Diver had come out the year before. This was the time before jangly guitar records had the irritating genre tag “dole wave” attached to them.
But despite the requisite loose and shrill guitar playing, Milk Teddy were considerably more psychedelic than their peers. The songs were coated in reverb, and vocals hung aloft – kind of like that feeling when you’ve had a few beers in sunny Edinburgh Gardens and the old noggin is feeling fuzzy.
The new album, Time Catches Up With Milk Teddy, has a clarity in its recording not found on Zingers. A crisp spring release seems well timed before the haze of summer sets in.
If cowbell-heavy renditions of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” sound more like your thing, Dance Party is for you. Eleven of Australia’s best young session musicians make up the band, which moves through non-stop disco hits, rare cuts and originals. Mash-ups of Cece Peniston’s “Finally” and De La Soul’s “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” have been known to happen.
What more do you need for a good time than an 11-piece disco band playing all night long? There will be good-time DJs in between sets, but the real drawcard is the band.
It says a lot about how far the disco renaissance has come when a band can pack out a venue as big as the Night Cat every other month to bash out disco covers.
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