Words: Alasdair Belling
With decades worth of exploring the fusion of funk and metal with a disco twist behind him, one would have thought that the sounds and influence of Joe Satriani was a one-off moment that hadn’t found it’s way (properly) into the ever expanding world of heavy, instrumental fusion. Then along comes Back In Buisness, the long awaited second LP from Season of Mist French funakateers Step In Fluid.
As technically impressive as it is frisky, this record see’s the addition of keyboardist Gerald Villain, and boy are his 80’s pop-pads felt on this disc. From the kick off of LP opener Booty Shake, things have a distinctly 80’s funk edge, adding some glitz and glam to the thundering beats and virtuoso solo’s peppered across the tracks.
Upon listening to this record one will notice a distinct tonal shift as the record progresses, with the back half serving up some far more risqué, late-night cuts that err in the side of a euro jazz club or alcohol fuelled office party as opposed to the neon dance floor.
The one-two combo of Sex a Pile & Sex in An Elevator are just as musically adventitious as their titles suggest, piling in vibraphones, hammond organs and a darker sonic palette. This ‘edginess’ adds some much needed kick to what presents itself as a fairly straightforward, borderline gnaff affair in the front half of proceedings.
Of particular offense are the overly Starisised (lets roll with it people) Westside Step & Funk Bot Dance. The former dissolves into a repetitive groove that is no doubt meant to be spiced up by the constant bass crackle FX, but unfortunately the effect is much like that of a pair of earphones dying.
The latter suggests from the top that thing’s are headed for familiar territory with ‘wet’, wishy-washy grooves sounding all to familiar, but the subtle entrance of a moog solo, that proves to be one of the highlights of the record, pulls the track back from the brink of blandishness.
Despite these hiccup’s, there’s plenty to tap along to here that still possesses the ‘teeth’ of a good metal jam. The Stranger offers up a wonderful shuffle that takes cues, but doesn’t steal from, the eternal Rosanna standard by Toto, before flipping thing’s around to a metallic crunch for the ‘chorus’. Likewise, Streets of San Fransisco can only be described as ‘fun’, bringing some joyful guitar and groove lines, served with a healthy side of distortion. It’s mighty familiar to Surfing With The Alien, but despite the nostalgia thing’s are convincing enough to bring a smile to even the most hard-core o.g. shred fan.
Aside from the occasional repetitiveness and slight over consumption of cheese, what Back In Buisness does is tease listeners regarding the potential experimentation that Step In Fluid’s music lends itself to. Case in point, the beautiful 2-minute For a Friend, a piano & soprano sax duet that reveals a beautifully sensitive, and slightly noir sound to the record. With such a sensitive touch given to the track, it’s a tantalising representation of what this group could achieve with a ever so slightly more dynamic approach.
However, “despite the what if’s” and other objections, what Step In Fluid serve on Back In Business is a familiar yet exciting taste of a ever-underrated musical combination. If Snarky Puppy & Plini had a baby, well this would be the cousin. Close but wonderful in it’s own way.
You can purchase your copy of Back In Business HERE!