EMEFE is hooked on phonics

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What happens when you give the reigns to a drummer?

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Chris Bergenheim | November 14, 2012

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EMEFE (pronounced M, F, A) is a big, big band run by a drummer, Miles Arntzen, that does their best to skirt genre placement by fusing their influences together into deliciously produced, dance-oriented, feel good jams. The ten-piece channels funk, jazz, soul, rock, afro-beat and more. It’s a lot to tackle and the NYU grads are up to the task. Their album, Good Future, captures a fundamental live-groove, an essential aspect of the band’s existence and sound. The graceful intro on “Stutter” into full on hip hop cadence is undeniably infectious and it’s just the beginning of an onslaught of informed talent and decisively enjoyable full band music that's sure to fire some endorphins. (The video’s pretty rad, too.) The band is more than capable of taking the listener out of their head, up on a dramatic slant of emotion that always returns to the heart of the songs: fat synchopated beats.

(“Stutter” download)

EMEFE seem aware of their place in the Internet age, pulling together influences from all over the map and time with old school swagger and new-era tones and sensibility. The filthy grinding guitar sounds on “BBB” and subsequent freak out solo brings Fela inspired afro-beats to EMEFE’s own distinctive realm and right back into a resounding full band blow out. The album seems intent on blending big beat choruses with interesting, playful solos and a soft sensibility that isn’t alienating, lofty or obnoxious; it’s complex, but doesn’t forget to have fun. Even their album’s interlude is a full-on party. And seriously, if you can’t bump this at a party, you’re in the wrong place.

I first encountered EMEFE out in Boston where I went to school. My friend invited my roommates and I over to see a ‘rad afro-beats, funk band’ in her basement and told us it would be a killer dance party. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to the prospect of a “good” dance party, but she had me at afro-beats band. I’ve been expecting (hoping, waiting) for the return of funk and soul sounds into popular culture outside of miniscule hip hop samples for a while now. (Sorry R&B artists, you aren’t channeling Sam Cooke, I don’t care who says you do.) Given that the music industry so relies on the live show these days, it would make sense to me that big bands should be making some headway back into the popular palate. There is a necessary re-livening energy of a successful funk or soul show. The recipe is simple though tough to achieve: A big, tight and talented band absolutely dominates a room.

I got into the basement of this show/party and there was a crowd of people I had never seen before in my life, it being a friend's party, it was weird enough to mentally note, but by the time the laundry room/ basement space filled up, that whole crowd of people I didn’t know ended up being the section of EMEFE that made it out to Boston.They killed it.The house was packed with flailing, sweaty, unashamed and wild dancers by two songs into the set and didn’t stop until after the encore’s encore. That is the kind of band I want to see live. (And, for that mattter, hear properly recorded.) This is my Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. (Two days for recovery). They're awesome, so go catch ‘em on tour.

Good Future is available on their bandcamp which also houses their upcoming tour dates.

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