Volume 94, Issue 8
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Telek wants you to sleep - Toshi wants you to groove
Nothing But Your Love
Rhythm and Blues music has traditionally been considered the provenance of black musicians. Over the years, there have been non-black artists who have attempted to leave their mark on the genre, but with few exceptions, those endeavours have not been very successful.
With the release of his second English language album, Nothing But Your Love, Japanese multi-instrumentalist Toshi Kubota throws his hat into the ring. And judging from this record, he just might win.
Despite growing up in Japan, Kubota's major musical influences include Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and Prince. He has clearly studied each artist and taken elements from their work to incorporate into his own, but that's not to say his music is derivative.
Kubota manages to put a distinctive stamp on the music. He creates a modern, soulful funk that steers clear of the plastic, cookie-cutter sound of contemporary R&B, while not coming off like an exercise in imitation.
The title track is a slab of heavy funk, with an infectious hook and a great, guttural lead vocal. "Body Bounce" is a dirty groove that skillfully incorporates a sample from Zapp and Roger's classic, "More Bounce To The Ounce". However, Kubota has also proven he can jam slowly too, with the sensuous "Someday".
In what can be seen as his one concession to trends, Kubota has included a number of guests on the album. Thankfully, his choice of collaborators is more credible than most. The Roots appear on two tracks, most notably on the smooth track, "Masquerade". Angie Stone sings backing vocals on several of the songs and the unfortunately titled "Pu Pu", features production and a guest appearance by Raphael Saddiq.
From start to finish, Kubota's mix of vintage instruments and cutting edge sounds combined with his instrumental prowess and fantastic voice, make Nothing But Your Love a knockout punch.
-Aaron St. John
Real World Records
Disguising the traditional sounds and instruments of their native Papua New Guinea as subtle folk-rock, Telek sneaks yet another world music-flavoured folk album into our ever-waiting music collections.
Serious Tam (recorded on the group's first trip to the Northern Hemisphere) is a familiar sounding record which attempts to bridge the already narrow gap between traditional cultural world music and the contemporary American folk scene. The soft rolling vocal harmony style referred to by members of Telek as "snaking," brings much needed interest to the group's flat sound.
Largely an acoustic album, each track relies heavily on guitar and western styles, while accenting the sound with ancestral vocals, instruments native to the group's homeland and the ever-present atmospheric sounds of waves crashing and birds chirping. Soothing? Very. Entertaining? Not really.
Serious Tam is not altogether bad, yet it's not great either. Each song has a distinct sound while still managing to tie in with the rest of the album. On "Waitpela Gras," which conveys the message "we like banana skin," Telek sneaks in an old school hip-hop break beat. The title track sounds a bit like Bob Dylan, after a day in an opium den, while "Bunaik", with its rolling drums and bouncy vocals, is easily the best track on the album.
Following a litany of other successful world-folk artists such as Rusted Root and the Rankin Family, Telek basically perform standard fare but in another language. If that's what you're into great. If you're looking for a cultural awakening try elsewhere.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000