Brainfeeder’s latest signing, Brandon Coleman, has been touted as the future of funk. Having cut his teeth playing with Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and Shuggie Otis to name a few, his pedigree in funk is more refined than most. Working under the guise of Professor Boogie as Kamasi Washington’s keyboard connoisseur further underscores his chops as a musician.
Under the heavy influence of Herbie Hancock and Roger Troutman, Coleman has followed on from these forefathers of funk by delivering his debut LP Resistance. Though hampered by the pitfalls which can plague a maiden release, the reinvigorating blend of jazz, disco, R&B and soul make this funk-odyssey a trip worth taking.
A symphony of strings marks a theatrical introduction before plunging headfirst into the funkadelic disco opener “Live For Today”. Subtle keyboard melodies marinade a slinky bassline before strings in the chorus bring it to life, echoing Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”. Coleman’s vocoder-effected vocals also balance perfectly with the animated rhythm afforded by the live drums before an electrifying solo rounds out an energised opening.
The vocoder remains front and centre on follow up “All Around The World”. As the smooth, ethereal groove morphs into a chorus of RnB-pop, the verse vocal “I wanna take you with me and keep it on the go,” show he’s got an ear for a hook. The contemporary funk of “A Letter To My Buggers” is Coleman at his best. A bassline made to make fellow Brainfeeder members envious underpins the sleek verse, before erupting into an irresistibly bouncy chorus curated specifically for the dance floor. Strings that build tension in the pre-chorus, lo-fi keys that satisfy and a synth hook in the chorus all demonstrate Coleman’s gift for arrangements.
“Addiction” branches out into a more aggressive RnB-funk style with another potent bassline. Plucked guitar and grainy synths add texture as Sheera’s rich vocals offer a welcome reprieve from the vocoder. Maintaining this variability is a wind section straight out of the Blues Brothers which preludes the hip-hop infused “Sexy”. Timbres that traverse decades of varying genres, such as the pitch-shifted cowbell and brassy synths, are magically melded into the jam. Coleman’s limited lyrics are the only let-down as he cycles through the same two words, “sexy girl”.
Branding himself as a keyboard maestro, the downtempo RnB landscape of “There’s No Turning Back” would’ve been an ideal place to showcase said skills. Instead, the solo fades out prematurely in favour of establishing a relaxed ambience. Title track “Resistance” is a similarly sparse, jazzy instrumental interlude, melding harp and keys over a minor key progression. Though diversifying the rhythm of the album, these songs feel aesthetically disconnected from the rest of the record.
Coleman continues to craft by mixing RnB with jazz on “Sundae”. Strings form with keys and pinged hi-hats to fill out several ascending key changes that deceptively build before the back half settles into a pounding groove. There’s a jam-like nature imbued into the synthetic sounds, offering a contemporary twist on what would otherwise be a standard funk breakdown. The next track, “Just Reach For The Stars”, feels like 70s disco-funk, featuring some prominent backing vocals that reach some rich vintage harmonies. Whilst the synth solo is a nice marriage of old and new, his lyrics remain redundant, going in circles without offering any depth beyond that of the title.
Though initially interesting, both “Love” and lead single “Giant Feelings” ultimately suffer from the same fundamental flaw. Both at first sound stimulating, with the former’s pop-funk beats and the latter’s synth funk motif which develops into an orchestral climax. The unifying lyrics also beautifully harness the close-knit relationships between the artists that feature (Kamasi Washington, Patrice Quinn). However, both tracks overstay their welcome, becoming predictable by failing to develop beyond these primary passages.
The relaxed RnB-jazz of “Walk Free” calmly closes things out. It maintains the notion of uplifting romanticism perpetuated throughout the album with the lyrics “moments into memories, as the day goes by, a second with you, makes me feel alive”. Though the synths and white noise make the mix overcrowded, it’s a genuinely soothing number to finish on.
Brandon Coleman’s funk-filled debut is far from the perfect release. Like a kid with too much to prove, he reveals all his cards too quickly on some songs. With little room for surprise, these tracks are left feeling fundamentally formulaic. A brevity of themes and lyrical depth further inhibit the listener from engaging on a deeper level with the music. However, there’s a handful of instances of Coleman at his infectiously danceable best. These moments do more than enough to indicate a bright future for funk with Coleman at the helm.
Resistance is released Friday 7th September via Brainfeeder.