The Art Of Us begins with a piece of spoken prose and a bit of blues picking. Invoking the spirits of John Lee Hooker, Eddie “Guitar” Burns, and Bobo Jenkins. But then in comes a banging tribal beat – and any preconceptions you might have had about Blair French’s music go spinning out onto the dance-floor. This set ain`t no soliloquy to the sunset – but pounding disco and house. Full nods in effect to the music’s history while fixing its footwork firmly in right now. Its air full of chants and dub-wise shouts. Its guitar hero histrionics backed by Blue Monday b-lines. Bongos are bashed. Congas are cracked. Pacy latin rhythms fuse marimba and cuica – Brazilian rhyme with post-punk bass. Bush Of Ghosts-like it hijacks the hand-clapping and foot-stomping of gospel congregations, and counters them with synthesized Fairlight sighs, then double-dips the whole lot in aural LSD.
Electric fusions are built around kalimba and piano particles. Melting down styles and elements as seemingly disparate as modal harps and `60s West Coast harmonies – but all of it f-u-n-k, funk. Afro, punk, disco, house, and jazz. Clever chords chasing the sun on Honey Rooftops – the closest the album gets to chill-out, downtempo even. Cantoma country. Allusions to Fela and Tony in Jeans / Genes` mid-tempo, cosmic chug. Stopping and starting a la Kinkina`s take on Jungle Fever – minus the porn-star theatrics. Shimmying to a stuttered staccato organ solo.
Part of me wonders if The Art Of Us isn’t some super celebration of Blair’s hometown, Detroit. From the opening bluesmen of Hastings and Chene Street, to Space Time Curvature`s references to Underground Resistance`s Happy Records, and Carl Craig`s Programmed opus. Chest Drum is driven by a dusty bebop loop that could have been recorded live at the Chesterfield Lounge, Frolic Bar, Café Bohemia, Harlem Cave, or Blue Bird Inn. Its afro-cuban, leaping, jumping jive buzzed by an electronic bottom end. Cranked up by a call-and-response breakdown. Peppered with pan-pipe-like patterns. Cute chimes counter the distorted battery of Drop Ceiling Shuffle. Its squelchy electro-soul shuffle, recalling the righteous “ritmo” of Humberto “Andres” Hernandez. The closing River Crossing marries didgeridoo drones to a techno LFO. Its Burundi beat and assorted rapidly shaken and struck percussion forming a fast-flowing stream – revisiting the futuristic rainforest fauna of Stacey Pullen, Kenny Larkin, Bango and Azimuth.
Blair French’s The Art Of Us is available to order directly from Rocksteady Disco.