The worst part about New Zealand’s, Funkommunity, is their name. (Funkommunity? Really?) Luckily the best part is their music, which is awesome.
Chequered Thoughts has that old thing. And I don’t mean old thing like, 60’s or 70’s. No, I mean that old thing like late 90’s early 2000’s when every r&b/soul song had a nasty bass groove, and a snappy off-beat snare, catalyzing headnods and handclaps like nothing that came before it. That future-retro sound that we know so well from the likes of Georgia Anne Muldrow, Sonnymoon and Muhsinah — the Dilla inspired. That’s what Funkommunity is doing, and I have to say, they do it damn well. All of the elements that make up their new album, Chequered Thoughts, are stellar, but at the core is the soulfully infectious voice of Rachel Fraser.
From the opening track, “The Light,” a funky r&b groove, with synth stabs, and a stuttering bass, is nothing but a good time. Just listening to it made me want to hit a basement party, greet people with cheek kisses, and hand dance with a fly woman who smells like Nag Champa (and I mean that in the best way possible). “The Light” sets the tone for the rest of the album, as Funkommunity delivers track after track of really well-crafted songs, including the rewound single, “Dandilion,” where Fraser reminds us that patience is a virtue, and the ethereal, “Start Again,” which serves as a meditative mantra as much as it does an actual song. And on “Sorceress,” where Fraser’s voice evokes (dare I say) Amy Winehouse, she goes on about how a man must prove himself, and win her love, all over that same head snapping groove that almost any Soulquarian could fit over effortlessly.
Funkommunity’s Chequered Thoughts is refreshing, to say the least. It feels good to hear something familiar, but executed so well that it sounds new. It’s a pleasant surprise, ironically, to know what to expect, which in this case is nothing but the funkiest, face-melting tracks, laced by an incredible, lived-in voice from a woman who seems to also take her time to pen thoughtful lyrics. And to think, it took a band from the other side of the world to bring that old thing back. Now, if they were only as good at naming their band as they are at making music, they’d be golden.