Heavy, heavy funk & sweet, sweet soul

Review: Marta Ren & The Groovelvets – Stop Look Listen


No newcomer, Oporto singer Marta Ren has been lending her fine vocals to the Portuguese scene since the mid-nineties, notably appearing on a couple of albums for breakbeat outfit The Bombazines. It is really retro soul/funk where her heart truly lies though and having teamed with the Groovelvets (pronounced groo-velvets), they now release their first album of late 60s, early 70s inspired funky soul.

The band signed to Milan’s Record Kicks three years ago and have grown considerably in strength since their first single, reaching the sweet spot where they understand both the comfort and limitations of their sound. Its a push-pull dynamic that allows them to work solidly as a unit, or give way to spotlights, such as the interplay between Ren’s solid vocals and the saxophone on the fantastic “Release Me”, complementing each other’s tone nicely. The effective 8 track Ampex tape recording and mastering give a punchy, yet not over-glossy sound to tracks like Lucille Mathis cover “I’m Not Your Regular Woman”, a track that really benefits from a dynamic, fresh update. There’s also plenty of kick to “Release Me”, “Don’t Look”, “Be Ma Fela”, “It’s Today” – all pleasing upbeat floor shakers and earlier single “2 Kinds Of Men”, of which I particularly like how the horns swell like a swarm of bees. The slower pace of “Smiling Faces” is also well handled, breathing air into a set that is grooving along nicely, tight playing and arrangements from the 8-piece band throughout.

Marta Ren & The Groovelvets land their debut on solid ground, put feet firmly on the dance floor, and proudly fly the soul & funk flag for Portugal.


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Cinematic Soul – Sat 27th February


Cinematic Soul is back for another superbad evening of sound + vision. Teaming a live DJ playing funk soundtracks with an epic montage of clips from cult films, cinematic soul is kick-ass fun, set in the bar above Brixton’s beautiful Ritzy Cinema. Kick back and watch or get up and dance.

Saturday 27th February
8pm – 1am
Upstairs At The Ritzy
Ritzy Picturehouse Brixton
Brixton Oval
Coldharbour Lane

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Funkalicious – Friday 5th February


At Funkalicious we play heavy, heavy funk and sweet, sweet soul
from the classics of the 60’s and 70’s to the hot new releases of today’s healthy worldwide funk scene, its always a dance party.

Expect to hear classic James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding next to
the brand new sounds of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Breakestra and the New Mastersounds.

Friday 5th February
White Horse Brixton
94 Brixton Hill
Brixton SW2 1QN
9pm – 3am – FREE!

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LAUNCH NIGHT: Cinematic Soul – Sat 9th January


Teaming sound with visuals, Cinematic Soul explores funk soundtracks, high-production soul and fusion from 1965 to now with DJ Philster (Funkalicious). Projected visuals feature an exciting, epic montage of movie clips from cult films. Kick back and watch or get up and dance.

Saturday 9th January
8pm – 1am
Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton
Brixton Oval
Coldharbour Lane

Free Entry.

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Funkalicious: Friday 1st January


Now this is how we kick-off 2016!

Friday 1st January
White Horse Brixton
94, Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

9pm-3am – Free

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Funkalicious: Friday 4th December


A long-term Brixton favourite, Funkalicous returns with more funk and soul from the 60s and 70s heyday, more brand new and unreleased tracks from the emerging scene, more latin, more breakbeats and more old-school hip-hop.

Friday 4th December
White Horse Brixton
94 Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

9pm-3am – Free

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Review: Calibro 35 – S.P.A.C.E.


In the lead-up to the 1969 moon landing, the world, it seemed became fascinated with outer space, triggering a cultural explosion of fiction, art, fashion, film, music and TV. In retrospect, much of this provides a fascinating glimpse into how people back then viewed the frontiers of space and technology, ranging from paranoid trepidation to a utopian vision that projected the bold 1960s aesthetic into the future. Either way, it was and is certainly of interest and for a time, space became mega-cool. A lot of the music reflecting these concepts were thick in the groove, as was the standard of the day, with a sense of embracing emerging technology – hence the employment of a lot of early sythnesizers and analogue keyboards, which by their very nature, hark back to a time capsule sound when used today.

Italian combo, Calibro 35 are no stranger to dabbling in retro soundtrack sounds. This, their fifth album, is the first to depart from their previous ‘crime-funk’ cinematic sound. The concept – to create the soundtrack for an imaginary science fiction movie directed by Sergio Leone – sounds brilliant on paper. But can Calibro 35 pull it off?

They can, brilliantly. There are poised moments of exploratory tension building, with multiple layers of synthesiser effects, twinkles and patterns adding texture on top of the restrained timing of the band, really giving you this sense of simple imagery – perhaps a group of space explorers, looking for something they don’t really want to find. And then they find it – and the soundtrack launches into explosive action – pulsating bass, stabbing horns, stampeding drums, fuzzy guitar and more synthesizer. Lots and lots of synthesizer.

Recorded in London on an 8-track tape recorder, live with no overdubs, there is just the right amount of tension and excitement to make this a compelling soundtrack. Right down to the static crackle, this thrilling ride through space and time is every bit as good as the concept promises, with bags of atmosphere, action, fuzz and fun. Now if there was only a real movie to go with this.


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Review: Lucinda Slim


Having toured the world with Zap Mama for the best part of two decades, later becoming a DJ and compilation curator, in addition to having shared the stage with the likes of Sharon Jones, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu – Lucinda Slim’s debut album as a solo artist has been a very long time in the making. For many years, she has been a keen record collector, striking up friendships with DJ / collector, Keb Darge and Daptone Record’s Gabriel Roth that culminated in DJ collaborations with the former – stage appearances and recording with the latter.

Those appearances, with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, as well as recording and performing with The Haggis Horns, gave Slim the final push to record her first album as a solo artist. With songs co-written by Darge & Roth and with the aid of producer Pascal Garner (Vinylators), she recorded the bones of the LP in Belgium with an assembled four-piece band of seasoned musicians, dubbed “The Law Men”. After arrangements and rehearsal, the album was recorded live in the studio in just 2 days. Overdubs were then recorded in Leeds with The Haggis Horns returning the collaboration.

The result is is a fantastic set, including two covers, Irma Thomas’ “Two Winters Long” and Towanda Barnes’ “You Don’t Mean It” – the album’s true star with a pulsating, relentless pace, terrifically arranged horns and soaring energy. The instrumental version that closes the album displays just how effective the whole arrangement, production and musicianship is. Of the original material, the band show great versatility in the styles handled, touching on a wide spectrum of soul styles and specialising in a high-gear, driving groove. The same can also be said for slim, whose vocal on each track is remarkably different from the last, always hitting the mark and showing real experience and a handle on all shades of soul. “Whirlpool” sounds like a well executed Motown groove, whilst “Love Thief” sounds like Marva Whitney firing on all cylinders. “Wrath Of The Lawmen” effectively adds a touch of Ennio Morricone influence, with western chimes atop a rolling soul groove and thrilling breakbeat. One of the tracks here, “All This Time” was actually Slim’s first solo single from back in 2009, winning the admiration of Paul Weller at the time. It stands slightly apart from the other tracks here in that its sample styling is more modern feeling than the retro soul approach employed elsewhere – but nevertheless a great track, well worthy of inclusion.

The material here is so well handled, that it sounds as though these songs have been around for decades, testament to the quality with which this record has been put together. First listen of this album reveals an instant classic appeal, one that feels timelessly collectible. And as it’s a limited pressing, you should badger your local record shop to order you in a copy right away.

Lucinda Slim // You Don't Mean It from seenematic on Vimeo.


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Film: Nasty Gal: The Many Lives Of Funk Queen Betty Davis

Betty Davis Needs You

Funk enigma Betty Davis has enjoyed cult status for decades. The singer, songwriter, style icon and all-round bad-ass funk queen released three incendiary albums in the early 70s, mixing a firebrand of funk, rock and blues with her energetic, raw and raunchy vocals. Betty frequently rubbed shoulders with the likes of Hendrix and Sly – and when she met and later married Miles Davis, she introduced him to a whole hip scene that would transform his career, sending shockwaves throughout the music world.

Since that time, Betty has shunned publicity and has remained elusive for more than 30 years. But the mystery of whatever happened to her since, and the stories of those exciting days are about to be uncovered – with the aid of Betty herself. London-based Native Voice Films are currently in development of the first ever Betty Davis biopic film “Nasty Gal: The Many Lives Of Funk Queen Betty Davis” – and as you can see from the teaser below, it is really going to be something special, not just for fans but for those who are yet to discover this incredible woman. Best of all, Betty herself is co-operating in the films production. “Although I have been silent for a long time,” said Davis in a super-rare statement, “I feel it’s important to help shape my legacy while I’m alive by returning my story and music to people who will value it and learn from it. I am excited about this project and hope it finds the support it needs.”

The filmmakers need our help to be able to tell this incredible story. Seeking to crowdfund $65,000 by November 10 for research, music clearance and principal photography, they have put together an excellent selection of perks on Indiegogo here: that make your investment in this project really worthwhile. I hope you’ll agree, Betty’s music, style, attitude and story deserves to be heard on a wider platform. It could be one of the most fascinating untold rock stories out there.

NASTY GAL – Movie Teaser from Native Voice Films on Vimeo.


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Funkalicious: Friday 6th November


Back for more heavy, raw funk and the sweetest soul music for your dance floor delectation.

Friday 6th November
9pm-3am – Free
White Horse Brixton
94 Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

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Review: Daptone Gold II


Last year the Daptone Records family went on tour with a series of revue style shows that saw the entire Daptone roster perform together for the first time, culminating in three sold-out nights at the Apollo Theatre in New York. The second volume of “Daptone Gold” – greatest hits, rarities and favourites – further showcases the talent at the Brooklyn label and is ever more vital by the inclusion of a few 45 only tracks as well as 2 unreleased tracks.

Amongst label favourites here are Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ “Better Things”, their excellent Shuggie Otis cover “Inspiration Information” and the storming “Retreat!” from their latest album – as well as The Dap-Kings “Thunderclap” instrumental, one of the unreleased gems here together with 45 only “Little Boys With Shiny Toys”. The inimitable “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley spotlights on album tracks “Strictly Reserved For You” and “Heartaches and Pain”, as well as the 45 only funk of “Luv Jones” duet with LaRose Jackson. Antibalas’ Fela styled “Dirty Money”, Sugarman 3’s “Got To Get Back To My Baby” and the unreleased “You Got To Move” by Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens amongst other winners here.

The double LP is packaged in a silver foil gatefold sleeve and comes with a full-size poster, liner notes and Daptone logo iron-on. The CD is packaged in a deluxe embossed silver foil digipak with liner notes. 21 tracks of greatness on Daptone Gold II showcase brilliantly why Daptone Records is so highly acclaimed amongst listeners.


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Review: Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style


Helsinki’s soul revivalists, The Soul Investigators return with their third collaborative album with Brooklyn born, Helsinki resident, Nicole Willis. Self penned, performed, produced and released on their own label “Timmion Records”. Entitled “Happiness In Every Style”, it does indeed shift through a variety of styles, each track quite different from the last; though not all about happiness, it does have some very high moments and is generally a lighter affair than their 2013 “Tortured Soul” album. Two of the highest moments are provided by the singles “One In A Million” and “Paint Me In A Corner”, both with a bright and catchy northern soul meets deep funk feel and both with terrific energy. The album title itself comes from a line in the lyrics for the thrilling, high energy funker “Let’s Communicate”. Elsewhere the feel ranges from moody, to light, reflective, noirish and even some nice afro influences to the flute-driven instrumental “Bad Viberations”. The playing handled on all with a raw tinged, confident swagger.

Admittedly, all through my first listen, I was secretly hoping to hear the likes of the epic closing track from Tortured Soul, “You Got Me Moon Walking” – one of my favourite album tracks of recent years – a full, stretched-out groove with plenty of interesting changes. Whilst perhaps there is nothing quite as epic here, there are certainly epic moments such as the vibes solo of “Paint Me In A Corner” for one, the magnificent organ solo that closes the beautiful “Angel” for another. I certainly feel this is their most accomplished, mature album yet and the lofty singles to be career best. Also noteworthy, is the very tasty bonus track “Hot Sauce”, a very simple groove that doesn’t change up much but is nevertheless a low-down, nasty piece of funk in all the best ways.

All round greatness, variety, warmth and depth from Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – a fine and mature album with a few tracks that should stay with you for a while and last the test of time as all good soul music does.


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Funkalicious: Friday 2nd October


At Funkalicious, expect to get down. Expect music from 1965-now. Expect heavy, raw funk. Expect classic soul. Expect good times and a dance floor party!

Friday 2nd October
White Horse Brixton
94 Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

Free entry

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Funkalicious: Friday 4th September


Funkalicious is serving up the real-deal funk & soul with all natural ingredients. Selected by DJs Philster & Mr Higgs, we will be bringing dance floor favourites to White Horse Brixton once again – from the 60’s to now. Come join in.

Friday 4th September
9pm-3am – Free

White Horse Brixton
94 Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

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Review: The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble


Solid West Coast grooves from San Diego, California, The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble neatly play their way through 12 cool and deep instrumental numbers. Taking on a variety of different styles, the band master stripped down funk on “Laying Low”, afro funk on “The Hunt” and choppy funk on “Strollin’ Adams”. There’s even the sound of 1960’s London thrown in on the groovy “Funky River” but its really all about the sunny and cinematic sound as exemplified on “City Heights” – a solid dance floor stroll with a really uplifting sunshine vibe which shows the West Coast can hold their own alongside East Coast favourites such as Menahan Street Band or The Expressions. The band prove to be just as versatile as their sound, giving each other space to play some nice solos and drop-outs on this latest release from Ohio’s fantastic Colemine Records. Don’t sleep on this one.


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