Whitefield Brothers

Earthology

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AllMusic Review by

Though it’s been seven years since the Whitefield Brothers (a moonlight moniker for Germany’s Poets of Rhythm) issued their stone funk classic In the Raw, Earthology was worth the wait. While the previous album showcased stoner funk laced with African and Caribbean elements, Earthology jumps a whole lot further. In addition to gritty bass, drums, horns, distorted organs, and guitars, the group has extended itself into even more tripped-out terrain, looking deeper into world music traditions and hip-hop. MCs Edan and Mr. Lif assist on "The Gift," Percee P and MED help on "Reverse," and Bajka lets it rip on the slamming album opener “Joyful Exaltation.” “Safari Strut” is obviously influenced by Ethiopian snake music master Mulatu Astatke and Egyptian jazz king Salah Raghab (with some gorgeous marimba work). “Sad Nile”'s organ and horn work recall Fela, but it's far more psychedelic and spaced out than his. The horns charge in staggered harmonic lines, as guitars and basses intertwine with the organ providing a rocking Southern funk groove. On “Taisho,” Masaru Nishimoto plays what can only be called a Jimi Hendrix-inspired koto solo; it's too brief, but the groove is pure whomp! Nishimoto also plays shakuhachi flute on “Alin,” that walks through musical dimensions that encompass Bali, Japan, and southeastern Nigeria’s musical traditions. The biggest surprise here, however is the absolutely killer reading of Mal Waldron's “Breakin’ Through,” with Stuart Bogie on clarinet, Martin Perna on baritone saxophone, and trombonist Aaron Johnson. The track also features both clavinet and an electric piano, moving through Waldron’s knotty melody with an exotic, Far Eastern feel, even as drums and bass push the tune into soul-jazz changes. Breaks pop throughout on hand percussion and the trap kit. Elsewhere, such as on “Sem Yelesh,” balaphons and tambours play actual counterpoint with saxophones. On “Pamukkale,” tambour, English Horn, and flute are locked into a taut battle for dominance with an orgiastic, hand percussion-driven rhythm section. The entire album is seamless in sequence and construction. Earthology easily avoids traps that, ambitious as it is, would keep it from being what it is at heart: a nasty, spine-slipping, ass-shaking funk record.

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