The Whitefield Brothers
Earthology (How Again)
If you’re the far-thinking sort, you might wanna lay aside a coupla extra copies of Earthology for your kids to bust out when they hit the college party circuit. This is the stuff a crate-digger’s dreams are made of: dusty-sounding throwback funk, laced with enough exotic sonic seasoning and drips of hot spit to blow a few dozen minds dropped in somewhere as a sample or a basement-dancefloor-filler. “Joyful Exaltation” serves as both intro and invocation as the Whitefield Brothers, aka moonlighting German funk group the Poets of Rhythm, unfold a faux conscious-funk jam that sounds a bit like the JBs recorded in a janitor’s closet. Thick as the old-school ambiance cultivated here swirls, it doesn’t obscure the intricate marimba-driven syncopation of follow-up “Safari Strut” or the urgent beat and urgent rhymes (courtesy Percee P and MED) sandwiching the snaky bass, clanging cowbell, and video-game-synth bridge of “Reverse.”
From there, the music expands from the straight-up American funk sound of the Brothers’ debut, the recently reissued In the Raw. “Taisho” features a vaguely Asian zither sound while “Sad Nile” busts out brawling, bottom-heavy Fela Kuti-style horns. “Pamukkale” unwinds amid ersatz Ottoman bellydance-den smoke while a wooden flute wobbles across the chiming bronze percussion of “Alin.” But by “Sem Yelesh” the Whitefields are pretty much straight-up reprising the Ethiopiques series, and the self-consciousness of the musical borrowing starts to distract from the band’s otherwise admirable taste and chops.
Whether we need more records that sound like old records made of old records is a conundrum for another day. Earthology is a solid good time, although perhaps enjoyed best in small doses. Like as a sample, or as a single track heard on a basement dancefloor.