The footwork master's soulful second album was inspired by a trip to Brazil.
The story of Bass + Funk & Soul, the second album from DJ Earl, can be traced back to a trip to Brazil, where he was booked to play a festival. During his visit, Earl stayed with a promoter friend, who introduced him to Brazilian funk. "This music was amazing!" he said in a recent RA Exchange. As someone raised on the likes of Aretha Franklin and Barry White, he noted the similarities between this newfound music and the sounds of his childhood. Earl's quest to better understand the genre led him to a fateful moment, when the same friend gifted him a hefty file of Brazilian funk samples.
Earl says Bass + Funk & Soul is the footwork LP he's been trying to make since his auspicious beginnings as a producer. His 2016 debut, Open Your Eyes, presented a more polished approach to footwork. Though the follow-up, undergirded by three simple elements, loses some of that sheen, it still feels like a challenge to the former's smoothness.
The album's key draw is Earl's ear for vintage funk and soul samples, which brings an elegance to the music while still leaving enough verve for the dance floor. Nostalgia floods tracks like "Baaaaaa," where pockets of sunshine are caught within sickly sweet vocals and improv jazz saxophone. Climactic trumpets blare in minor key on "Off They Feet," and a xylophone meets a wistful voice consoling, "Don't cry darling," in "Shitz Aint Safe No Mo." Some of the battle-ready militancy expected of footwork may be smoothed over, but there are still bangers in tow. "Whaaam," which edges towards ghetto house, is brought home with snaking acid lines and baffling tongue-twisters. One stylistic outlier, "Right Dere," is also where the album hits a snag. Featuring pitched-up vocals over a 2-step beat, the track feels slightly out of place.
In its best moments, Bass + Funk & Soul sounds like Earl trying to slow things down. Sometimes, it's even emotional. The album's closer, "Stl Breathin," takes on a new meaning during a year in which many of us have lost loved ones, or faced the fragility of our own mortality due to an illness that strips your breath away. Rusty piano chords flutter off into the ether, and a melancholy voice fades like the last traces of a song emanating from a passing car.
Earl's debut album heralded a shift towards a footwork sound that was more meticulously composed and palatable to off-the-dance floor listeners. Four years later, Bass + Funk & Soul is steeped in a softer palette that proves the influence of one pivotal trip to Brazil.
02. Ya Bish
04. Right Dere
05. Wrk Dat Body
06. Off They Feet
07. Shitz Aint Safe No Mo feat. Traxman
08. Get Smoked
09. Stl Breathin