It’s a reviewer’s worst nightmare when bands like Fat Freddy’s Drop release new music. The simple reason for this, is that it’s so damn hard to define their genre down to one or two musical styles. On their new album Bays, the seven-piece dive deeper into their exploration of dub, reggae, jazz, soul and rhythm and blues, crowning themselves the genre-mashing kings of Wellington, and hell, even the whole of New Zealand.
Fat Freddy’s Drop have always had this charming integrity to them. They’re honest and open, allowing for free flowing and heartfelt emotions to shine through in songs like ‘Makkan’ with its loose jazz and jungle rhythms. Amongst the electronic thrum of the album, ‘Makkan’ makes a statement, defining itself outside of the techno influence and direction of the band. It’s more raw and natural sounds are drowned out in an album that slightly lacks balance, where the band’s techno influence wins, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The albums single ‘Slings & Arrows’ proves that. The slinky reggae stabs and the fat bass amongst the whirl of horns and experimental sounds make this one of their strongest singles yet.
There’s a definite dark brooding element to the groups songs and if you haven’t encountered it yet, you’re sure to with the track ‘Razor’. The song builds continuously off the back of a grinding and repeated guitar riff that rolls in like a storm from the sea, while the electronic horn stabs add to the swelling storm front. Similarly to a rolling storm front, Fat Freddy’s Drop roll in the funk with a little side of disco beat on ‘Cortina Motors’. This song feels familiar and in a way it is. Fat Freddy’s Drop are the doctors of slow building jams, evidently so when we look at previous tracks like ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Shiverman’, and it’s no different with ‘Cortina Motors’. Keeping with the funky step built on the last track, the album closer ‘Novak’ is a slow and sexy funk mother. The bands vocalist Joe Dukie croons over the measured rhythm and slow hop of the track, in the midst of the wah driven guitar licks and light flute additions.
All in all, Bays is a smart release from Fat Freddy’s Drop. While the battle between more pure and classic Fat Freddy’s Drop sounds, and the heavier techno and electronic influences that dominate this latest release both have formidable arguments, none of this mars the quality of their sound. Fat Freddy’s Drop have produced a record that stands its own against its brothers, and highlights the unique talent and sound that the group have become known for.
Album Highlights: Makkan and Novak
Written by Ryan Durrington