Tunes of I - Restless

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:8 Release Date:2015-11-26

Tunes of I are a Wellington based ‘neo-dub/roots’ band who have been touring for the last two years the length and breadth of New Zealand to gain support for what would eventually become a Kickstarter for this album. The touring paid off because the Kickstarter goal was easily reached and the band went into the studio to record the smooth but occasionally funky sounds contained herein.

The album’s opener ‘Solar Rays’ is a couple of years old now, but a new recording sees the tempo a bit more relaxed in the groove. ‘Restless’ has some great muted guitar that doubles the bass; ‘Give in’ is expansive with far reaching vocals; ‘You Figure’ brings chords in like it was an R&B soul classic, raising the tempo to slowly morph into funk rhythms. ‘Changes’ starts with a simple arpeggiated figure that’s used as colouring but disappears as the rest of the band kick in. There are little things like this throughout the album that I wish had a bit more prominance, a bit more focus, but they seem to add colour rather than take centre stage. Perhaps because of that, not much of the album really takes off, and that may suit you fine, that may not be your cup of tea, but overall, the dub is all present and ready for your hot summer days to relax to.

The final song ‘See it Right’ provides acoustic balance, with backing vocals adding smooth harmonies in the choruses. With gentle clean guitar jazz improvs in between, the overall effect is of an easy listening crossover, though being worlds away from becoming dreaded elevator music. The contrasts, with some subtle string passages during the final acoustic picking moments, are what makes the listener wish there was more of this throughout the album. That’s not to take away from how good the rest of the album is – because it’s very good! But some more variation away from their dub soul sound would have been nice. When I had the chance to see the band on tour, they showcased a highly energetic stage performance featuring Jazz improv and raucous brass section that had everyone at the gig dancing. Much of that energy is greatly subdued. What replaces it is your classic chill-out album with a healthy dose of funk and soul – not a bad way to create a different album feel mind you.

On first listening I felt that there was a distinct lack of hooks, but these are all hooks of the subtle kind that slowly settle in and will have you singing their choruses without you even realising it - ‘Restless’ and ‘The Circle’ seem to be predominant of these tracks, the latter mixing funk guitar with soul backing vocals.

 

While I’m not blown away by the album, it is a finely produced work that bares all the hallmarks of a class act. The songs aren’t as immediately catchy as the best from dDub, or Fat Freddy’s Drop, but they do catch the same spirit with uplifting vocals, positive messages and tight playing that holds it’s own with the best dub bands.

 

Pre-order now at itunes or visit the website http://www.tunesofi.com

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