Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kraut Funk

Raw Funk (2000)
"Various Artists"
Hotpie & Candy Records

I got this 10-track compilation CD out of the library recently and I've been listening to it while commuting to work ever since. It's easily the blackest, baddest, funkiest, sweetest soul music I've ever heard. But here's a poke at me, I'm a total dummy: it's by the whitest of whitebreads - Germans!

Hotpie & Candy was a small German label (a subsidiary of Soulciety Records) that released a series of singles between 1992-1995. All of these releases were by a band from Munich called The Poets Of Rhythm whose members included the very un-soulful-sounding Teutons Jan Whitefield, Max Whitefield, Boris Geiger, Till Sahm, Malte Müller-Egloff, Wolfgang Schlick, and Michael Voss. This German funk band (consider that oxymoronic term: German Funk!) recorded under various pseudonyms (Bo Baral's Excursionists, Bus People Express, Karl Hector & The Funk-Pilots, Mercy Sluts, The, Mighty Continentals, The, Neo-Hip-Hot-Kiddies Community, New Process, The, Organized Raw Funk, Pan-Atlantics, The, Polyversal Souls, The, Soul Sliders, Soul-Saints Orchestra, Soul-Saints, The, Syrup, Whitefield Brothers, The Woo Woo's), releasing albums in the guise of "compilations" by "Various Artists" between 1992 and 2002. Ha! Don't be fooled like I was. Despite their tighter-than-James-Brown sound, the Poets remained relative unknowns outside of Deutschland until they were discovered by DJ Shadow in 2001; Shadow helped bring them to the attention of London's Ninja Tune records, where their Define Discern release reached a broader Western audience.

Poets of Rhythm

The minute the first track played I realized I owned this CD (and probably still do, though I've since lost it in the pop cultural dumping ground that is my domicile). In fact I used at least two of the tracks, by the Whitefield Bros and The Woo-Hoos, on the first season of Atomic TV. The Whitefield's funk groove provided excellent accompaniment to a classroom scare film about fire safety while The Woo-Hoos riff was used to illustrate the monthly cycle on the Atomic TV menstruation episode, "It's Wonderful Being A Girl!"

This stuff lives more than lives up to its "raw funk" name and passes the colorblind test. Never in a million years would you suspect that rigid Krauts - from the land of clockwork-precision and Kraftwerky robotic rhythms - were kicking out the smooth grooves. After all, Germans aren't exactly known for having natural rhythm, in fact they're more renowned for possessing a Negative Funk Factor - more likely to be found goose-stepping than getting down on the good foot. There go all my musical preconceptions!

Essential in any music library.

Related Links:
Live in Limerick, Ireland (YouTube)

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