BBC Music album review: Soul Clap
This review originally appeared on BBC Music on May 5 2012.
BBC Music reviewSoul Clap - Efunk
If you believe the blogosphere-fuelled hyperbole, the future of dance music lies in the hands of Brooklyn label collective Wolf + Lamb and its slow burning seam of deep house. It launched the career of American-Chilean minimalist Nicolas Jaar and has made international party boys out of its DJs, Seth Troxler, No Regular Play and Art Department.
The jesters of this court are Boston-bred duo Soul Clap. They’ve been fizzing away on the underground club circuit since 2007, steadily gathering acclaim for their bootlegs of RnB classics and house remixes. Their debut album, EFUNK, however, has more in common with similarly fun-poking duo Chromeo. They share the same penchant for electro-funk, but Soul Clap sling classic 90s RnB, house, disco and New Jack Swing into the frat party punch.
Unfortunately, they spike it with cartoonish bro-rap bravado too. Their cover of 80s cult electro producer the Egyptian Lover’s The Alzeby Inn, with its homophobic undertones, is an outright clanger (though, we suspect, considering the title’s acronym spells out “everybody’s freaky under nature’s kingdom,” it is meant ironically).
The lyrics aren’t the only thing holding EFUNK back: Soul Clap’s chugging pace drags on the heels of their most anthemic numbers. Even one of EFUNK’s strongest tracks, Let’s Groove On, which references club classics like Snap!’s The Power and C+C Music Factory’s Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), fails to reach the euphoric heights those inspirations might suggest.
The 90s thread continues on tracks Ecstasy and Need Your Lovin with Mel Blatt, who was in one of the era’s biggest girl bands, All Saints. Sadly, her vocals are wispy-thin and uncoil faster than a bad perm. Better is standout Take it Slow, which could have as easily come from Janet Jackson’s 1986 album Control with its slinky-sweet vocal from Franceska.
Still, the Soul Clap sound isn’t all stuck in the past. They may wear 80s and 90s influences on their sequinned sleeves, but they blend neon-splattered nostalgia with a crisp futurism thanks to their experimental production techniques. If the future of dance music does lie with Soul Clap, you can at least count on it being downright freaky.