DMX Krew
Wave Funk

By Kone-R

 
The word 'prolific' is oft-used to describe artists of less colossal output than Ed Upton, but his is certainly a case where it's justified. To try to summarise his huge discography would be a thankless task, so I'm going to cut to the chase and say that since first hearing his 1996 debut on Rephlex (Sound Of The Street) I've often found his material somewhat patchy. A forgivable crime? To be honest, he has turned out a large wedge of fantastic tracks spanning his trademark genre base of straight-up party electro to vocal-led synthpop. In the past few years, however, the crime of not-quite-always-getting-it-right has been further redeemed by the appearance of a more cerebral, considered side to his productions that was perhaps not so evident before. Mr DMX suddenly started to sound like someone who was finding the form of his life — several records under the 'Collapse of the Wave Function' moniker as well as some absolutely banging disco, electro and hardcore on his own Breakin' label — it was like I was suddenly hearing him properly, some ten years after I had started listening.

I don't know what brought on these new elements, but they look set to stay. New album Wave Funk is by far his best to date. Packing in a none-too-shabby seventeen fresh numbers (the CD is also bundled with a bonus disc of Wave Function cuts, all previously vinyl only), what Ed manages to achieve here is an album of perfect future funk. Whether it's the laid-back groove of Mr Blue, the hyped electro of I'm Back, the italo leanings of Zero Gravity Aerobics or the spoked-out vibe of Jupiter Mission, this is an album with many subtle flavours but a very strong — and unique — sense of identity. Gorf Man wouldn't have sounded out of place among AFX's Analord series, whilst Metro 1990 sounds like the lo-fi soundtrack to an old computer game in which your character walks the mean streets of Detroit, but it still fits the overall scheme perfectly.

The heavy switch half way through Gravity Boots is a killer, but the greatest achievement of Wave Funk has to be the sublime I Can't Control The Feeling. For me this is almost certainly the single best tune of 2010. In the three minutes or so of its brief existence, the track conjures up all sorts of impressions, many of them contrary even to each other — sure it's funky and downtempo, but it's also squealing synths and stripped bare drums. The vocoded vocal (one of the few instances where Ed uses lyrics on the album) is smooth and sexual, but at the same time twisted and mysterious. "Is it for real...?" he implores. It certainly sounds like it.

So all evidence suggests that what we now have, in Ed's one-man Krew, is not the slightly ridiculous '80s throwback, or the relentless high-speed electro freak, but an artist of surprising maturity and depth, possessing solid programming and production skills, but most importantly brimming with great ideas and truly riding the wave of funk.
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