Brian Ellis - In the Dark

Adam Ward reflects on the familiar feeling of future funk and the mood behind the So-Cal artist’s new album.

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Right around the time vaporwave started trending downwards, which was somewhere very soon after its creation, the general music public became averse to any mention of the word. It was partially a joke for most people; where vaporwave’s early adopters championed a specific aesthetic of pastels, Japanese text and marble busts, the very word “aesthetic” has been redefined to bring you almost exclusively images of that sort.

So for those so aesthetically inclined, a new frontier had to be made. Enter future funk. Born from the few legitimately musically inclined musicians of its grandfather genre, future funk is hardly futuristic: its the same lounge-based funk music you’d hear on The Weather Channel or in the background of a VHS workout tape, only now it’s on Bandcamp. It’s still on cassette, y’know, for authenticity.

That’s not to say it isn’t a blast to listen to. One of the best labels for future funk has been Portland, Oregon’s Omega Supreme Records who’ve been releasing talk box jams since 2012. Their newest release comes straight out of the neon lit bedroom of Southern California’s Brian Ellis, whose In the Dark feels completely apropos for a drive down a seedy street at dusk.

You’re gonna get some vintage synthy percussion a-la the wood blocks on “Banana Seat” wedged between choppy funk guitar, and when the hook loops back around with an overdriven chorus guitar mirroring it, it feels like the apex of an ’80s crime flick. “Moonlight Shadows” has an infectiously stank-faced g-funk hobble to it with dirty synth stabs chopping woozy pads in half. The closer, “Saito” features labelmate Sasac and slows the vibe down to a sleepy crawl, the guitar work here in particular hitting the right note between chintzy and sublime.

Ellis is the sole musician behind every instrument on In the Dark, which makes it feel doubly impressive considering how cleanly produced and tightly played each piece is. The calling card of vaporwave was often its ability to make you reconsider what was previously garbage music by placing it in context. By contrast, In the Dark needs no context; the musicianship is obvious and the music sounds great sans-irony. Future funk as a whole is essentially retro-futurist fetishism, but I’ll be damned if it’s not addicting.

In the Dark is out September 1st via Omega Supreme Records.

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