Various Artists – In the Red Volume 2 (Chuwanaga, 2019)

A second instalment of Brit Funk goodness from the ever impressive French label.

When the first ‘In the Red’ came out, all those years ago in 2017, it was perhaps the statement of intent from Chuwanaga. Their first release, it was different to many reissues at the time (and still to this day) that the music within it was not only rare and timeless gems from the Brit Funk era, but the tunes told a story. Dance floors in the UK asking for something different, disco but not quite disco, funk but not funk, jazz but not jazz. Brit funk served up all of this and more, and this compilation in many ways open a lot of people’s eyes to its wonders and forgotten treasures. It was a time of experimentation, of exploration, something that seems to be in the British musical DNA.

The infectious excitement of the label and its values is so refreshing, as they continue their journey of reissuing primarily Brit funk gems. Saint-James, the labels cofounder, speaks of these tunes so passionately, his obvious love for the genre and all things funky shines through these songs which aren’t even his. The label has released some real pearls, such as Sun Palace’s ‘Lost Songs 1982-84′ release, along with World Series’ ‘try it out/Head over Heels’ single. This love is evident throughout all these releases, and its here again on the second ‘In the Red’. Lets get into it.

The opener, ‘School’, by Stikki Stuff, kicks into it immediately. A fast tempo synth lead groove, drumming itself into your soul, blends down into a chorus line. Delightful synths, bass lines and drumming patterns creates a distinctively British vibe, and one that is closely associated with the labels well selected and curated feel. The moment here is the break down after the second chorus, which is just off the chain. The drums remain, the guitar riff, the keys fall away, before joining in with the fun. Its unreal, such amazing interplay, keys on keys on keys on bass on guitar. The horns join in, cause ya know, why not? really really fucking cool. And this goes on for a good three and a half minutes, just instruments. Heavy synths keep evolving here. This song perhaps displays the best aspects of Brit Funk; whilst many contemporary American songs were all about rhythmic consistency, these guys just threw that out the window, displaying a kind of Miles Davis on his ‘On the Corner’ album approach to making music. Up next comes Cruzial with their tune ‘Send me your love’. A little left field for the dance floor, but groove at its very heart, its a bit more slowed down. A good dance starter, or a nice 5am soft downer, this one oozes soul and erotica. It speaks of love, of joy, about being together. Its real classy, full of feeling and groove.

Potion come in next with their tune ‘City Girls’. Straight into it, what a groove! Guitars chime around over a steady beat, with soft keys in the background, before male harmonies kick in. Its such a groover, again one of those tunes that slots in at many occasions. The vocals on this record are real cool, kinda weird and quirky, which remained another unique characteristic of Brit Funk (although this might have been borrowed from the Paradise garage tunes, of which some had some out there lyrics). The lead vocal is gorgeous, really feeling the tune and the groove underneath. The Breakfast Band come in next with ‘Funksters’. A pumped up jam with a chanted verse before chiming synths give way for a break down lead by a sax. Everything underneath just effortlessly moves along, akin to the album opener, its all these really cool elements doing their part when the groove requires them. The vocals come back in at all the right moments, this one is made for the dance floor. The use of horns and brass in this tune is inspired, always bringing you back in, transitions off the chain, its all so very good and groovy. ‘Energy’ by Yeow Band comes in next, and pretty much does what it says on the tin. Straight up drumming provides a solid bass for jazzy chords, and even jazzier synths. This tune is just brimming, sizzling alway, so much going on here. The drumming kicks up just a wee notch, at the right time, to bring the track into overdrive. The vocals are also a treat here, bringing a much loved contrast to the playful synths. It just keeps on going and going, and it could keep going on forever and ever. To end it all off, Scratch (Gonzalez) comes in with their tune ‘Keep on Searching for love’. One final groover, this is the one. Stabbing synths on top of an irresistible groove, and a belter of a lead vocal performance, make this tune one to remember. What a stunner.

This is such a wonderful continuation from the first compilation. This collection of tunes reads more like a bunch of groovers, whilst the first, whilst still amazing, is a collection of the broad range of styles that Brit Funk artists went in for. These ones feel more like dance floor stompers, designed for minds and feet. Maybe we need a third volume? yes, we definitely do.

Support the troops:

https://chuwanaga.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-red-volume-2-compilation

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