Thrill of the Arts
So, apparently, Vulfpeck are a huge deal in America. They sold out Madison Square Garden, whatever that is, and pulled an infamous stunt which earned them a lot of money and caused Spotify to change their terms and conditions. What a pleb I feel, then, never having heard of them before.
So far I’ve only listened to Thrill of the Arts, which left me excited to explore the other half dozen or so albums and EPs that make up their catalogue. I can already say for sure though that this ragtag group of musicians exude talent and a purity of passion for the players’ art in every track. Each song is unique in tempo and tone, and I was taken aback while listening at the pure creative flair on display. A plethora of influences are detectable within, ranging from classic funkedy-funk slappers such as Conscious Club and Funky Duck to more bluesy or even gospel-esque offerings like Rango II and Game Winner all the way to an almost free-form vibe that one might associate with a jazz troupe in songs like Smile Meditation and Back Pocket. I was particularly reminded, especially in the guitar department, of one of my personal favourite roving squads of jazzy lads, Snarky Puppy, which you’ll know is massive praise if you’ve ever listened to their stuff.
Watching the music videos they have up on Youtube only amplified the impression I had from listening that what we have here is a group of individuals having an absolute blast exploring the avenues down which their instruments lead them. Mostly they simply show the group (which aside from its core members consists of a wider periphery of guest artists) sitting in rooms, jamming the hell out and clearly loving every second of play. Unlike some of the other albums which I have reviewed or am planning to review, the focus here is entirely on the music. Gloryhammer have their sci-fi concepts, costumes, and storylines, Dirty Dike has his over the top comedic character and lyrical shock value, but Vulfpeck simply seem to want to be represented by the sonic product itself, and I have to respect that.
There is no over-arching theme of the album, nor a particular flow or structure to it. As I stated, every song has a personality unto itself. This fits, of course, with the style of music but did, on reflection, lead to the experience of listening start-to-end in one sitting being a little tumultuous. For that reason I would rate each song higher than the collection as a whole. This is an album which I personally would probably not choose to listen to again in its entirety. Rather, I would add each song to different playlists and dip in and out as I saw fit. Then again, maybe that’s just me.
Overall, this is a project which has an awful lot to offer; fun at times, relaxing at others, funky and head-bopping while staying energised throughout with creative use of sound. Even the last sound-art-y sort of track which is a guided meditation using unusual sounds managed to entertain me with its strange vibes. Thrill of the Arts is incredibly pleasing to the ear, and I recommend you give it a listen.
Thanks for reading, and I am giving this album a contextual score of 7/10.
Written- May 2020
Published May 2020