Teedra Moses – Be Your Girl (Perempay & Dee Remix)/Aaliyah – Rock The Boat (Ill Blu Remix) You can tell a lot about a style by which R&B singers it idolizes. Garage loved its robo-divas: the unnatural poise of Aaliyah, the wounded android bleats of Brandy. Funky loves these too, but I’ve counted no less than three versions of Teedra’s “Be Your Girl”, which has to count for something. I adore Teedra too, and I’m sympathetic to what Funky sees in her: that comforting and yet distinct combination of soulful warmth and hyper-active expressiveness, only intensified by the increased BPMs here. “Sometimes I touch myself, imagining your pleasure, babyyyyy” she sighs on Perempay & Dee’s remix, and what was a subtle and lingering deployment of melisma on the final consonant becoming a fizzy sigh of alcopop-assisted excitement. Perempay & Dee’s groove – galloping but otherwise dutifully housey, pivoting around surging electro-bass riffs – is rowdy enough, but mostly it wants to get out of Teedra’s way and let her work her magic.
Ill Blu’s remix of Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat” is an entirely different beast, its muscularisation of the original taking it somewhere more unsettled and ambivalent. Ill Blu’s favourite trick – combining 4X4 kicks with a five snare hit per bar pattern that seems to skip across the top of the groove like a stone across the surface of a pond – allows them to create grooves that are both light and yet oddly cutting, inflicting dancefloor destruction by a thousand paper cuts. Aaliyah, of course, becomes a more excitable, demanding lover than on the more languid original, but the increasingly buzzy bass and dubbed-out atmosphere suggest a desire that is more compulsive than pleasurable. Towards the end Ill Blu unleash their second favourite trick, which is to introduce an entirely new melody as the tune draws to a close just to show off; here it’s a melancholy dial tone for someone else’s number; even in the midst of it all the singer is already coordinating her next assignation.
Mos’ Wanted – Different Lekstrix One of the more irritating aspects of a lot of “hardcore continuum” crit (by which I mean a whole swathe of crit that talks about jungle/garage/grime etc. as expressing some kind of narrative) is its tendency towards literal-mindedness. Many people got quite excited when UK funky producer Mr Roach sampled LFO’s “LFO” on a tune, even though the result was kind of tepid… as if what was important was the fact that Mr Roach had heard of “LFO”. This is a kind of crit that wants the music it’s discussing to do the critical legwork; the resulting endorsement is less for the track itself than for the gesture which the track makes.
But funky is so frequently referential and reverential with respect to the past that this rather seems like a supreme non-event. Much more exciting is the way in which funky seems to suck up all the great sonic ideas in dance music and reproduce them, seemingly (or actually) unaware of what it’s doing. “Different Lekstrix” doesn’t sample an LFO tune nor go out of its way to sound like one, but it captures much of the feel of the first LFO album: that same radioactive glow, that same slippery, slithery vibe, that same post-electro fascination with bouncy syncopated grooves.
“Different Lekstrix” has kicks, but they’re buried, submerged beneath a gorgeously sickly high-pitched bassline that seems constantly to shimmer and deliquesce, while on top explosions of high-end percussion and yawning gaps give the tune a hesitant, stop-start feel, like an ancient, immensely complex machine wheezing into life. MCs love it, because the tune’s constant revolutions make their rhymes seem more rhythmically inventive than they might otherwise, while at the same time different elements of the tune – a snare here, a sharp hand clap there – prop up a kind of 4X4 awning that’s easy to ride.
Unlike 2-step, there’s no straightforward flight from the monotony of the 4X4 beat in funky. Rather, many tunes rise to diverging but symmetrical challenges: sometimes, how to make a 4X4 beat sound as fucked up as possible, but other times, how to make a fucked up beat sound as intuitive and familiar as possible. In this tune both challenges seem to come together: it’s not clear whether this ungainly groove is supposed to be familiar, or alien, or both at once.