Silk Rhodes - Silk Rhodes

by Rob Taylor Rating:7.5 Release Date:2015-01-01

Having a gap between your front teeth is deemed sexy. Slipping a trip with Silk Rhodes insignia, well, perhaps that’s what nubile college girls might do listening to this album.

Silk Rhodes, Silk Road. Are the band referencing the dark-web marketplace? Or is the reference to the silkiness of Sasha Desree’s vocals, and the use of Fender Rhodes piano? I’m sensing there’s a bit of risque playfulness going on.  

Silk Rhodes are not pale imitators of Steely Dan, or Sly & the Family Stone, or Al Green or Prince, although its possible their brand of R&B, soul and funk is informed by these, and many other champions of the 1970s soul/R&B scene. With reference to Steely Dan, Silk Rhodes don’t share much in common with West Coast jazz fusion, but where there is similarity is the use of spare instrumentation, crisp production values, clear enunciation, and plenty of space for the notes to air. 

This tasteful discernment is the strength of Michael Collins and singer, Sasha Desree, who since the old days (late 1990s) have, not surprisingly, taken a field recording approach to the creation of music, that is, making spontaneity more important than prefabricated or over-rehearsed music. They are, or at least they were, in a sense more indie-upstart than glossy purveyors of soul/R&B.

The free-wheeling approach is heard to good effect on their self titled album. Clocking in at about half-an-hour, there’s no room for circuitous themes, or elaborate symphonic flourishes. Instead Silk Rhodes have adopted a minimalist take on soul music, a bit downbeat perhaps, but only in the sense of say, Massive Attack’s approach to Blue Lines, which never felt like a bummer, even if literally speaking, all signposts lead that way.  

Sasha Desree’s spiralling falsetto lays the groundwork for many of the tracks, and the phrasing allows for the musical elements on the album to take foreground, and float around in your consciousness, a sort of out of body experience to which the girl on the front-cover aspires. Classy.  

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