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.