Beat Funktion,
(DO Music, 2015)

My lukewarm review of Beat Funktion's last album, Mandy's Secret, led to quite a correspondence with Daniel Lantz, the band's keyboard player and composer. He didn't write to complain but to let me know that I had possibly mis-listened to their CD, that the things I called out as flaws were exactly the things that led to the band's popularity in its native Sweden; what I heard as a lack of originality was the very aspect of their music that their audience loved. Lantz pointed out that Beat Funktion never set out to be original; their intention was to play '70s funk, which the young Swedish listeners had never heard and which they could not get enough of.

So, when Olympus arrived in the mail, it was like being offered a second chance, an opportunity to listen with, shall we say, more informed ears, with Lantz's discussion points in mind. I did and here's the thing: Olympus is nothing like Mandy's Secret. While Mandy was a funk album, the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from the James Brown Band or any of his graduates, Olympus is a concept album, centered on Greek mythology. It suggests the story of humankind's relationship to the gods and of the gods to each other.

To pull this off, Lantz has written spoken-word narration that introduces many of the songs and has brought in two female singers for vocal duty; some of the songs required lyrics. The six-piece band is supplemented by strings, a lyre and both pan and regular flutes. The music is exotic, moving and deep. And it is much more rooted in contemporary jazz than Mandy was. The funk base still reigns, of course; Beat Funktion has not abandoned their sound but they have deepened, twisted and grown it. This album drives like a supercharged chariot.

You might find the spoken-word portions unnecessary; to my mind, the music carries the message just fine and the words simply tell us what we've already been made to feel. My own preference is the indirect approach, but as the album goes on, the spoken words recede and communication by music take over until the final track when the narrator comes back in to tell us we've reached the end of the journey and sums up the themes for us. It's a theatrical performance but then Olympus is a theatrical album.

So, Daniel, I hope I'm hearing your intent more accurately. If I'm not, let me know, OK?

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

18 July 2015

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