By Rick Shithouse
Something that I grow more and more aware of with 80s inspired synth music is that it becomes ambiguous in origin for many producers. Pulling elements from the decade from seemingly random points and compiling them into an all new sound provides much excitement to my ears and manages to re-invent the wheel in seemingly countless ways. However, when a producer finds their passion crystallised into a very specific vintage of 80s sounds and dedicates their homage to it in very specific terms it can be a sublimely magical experience.
Fanateek One is one such devotee of 80s synthscapes. His unrequited passion for mid 80s funk has been something I've been ardently following for years and now we finally have his debut album to enjoy and revel in. The funkier genres of 80s sounds have always been of much fascination to me as in the 80s, here in Australia, funk music was barely ever in the charts and was a more niche genre that had a its own street cred and dance floor personality and discovering and experiencing many, many funk classics from the 80s over the last 15 years has been something I've vastly enjoyed.
Of all the genres of iconic 80s music, funk denominations have really been some of the most timeless and recognised in recent years. This is thanks in no small part to mainstays like Chromeo and the ever present future funk genres that crossover into a myriad of electronic music styles and redefine vintage sounds into an accessible modern relevance. On Fanateek One's new record though we find an experience that is deeply rooted in the 80s and modern nuances are kept to a bare minimum in order to get the funk flowing all the right ways and by bringing funkstress Rach B along for the ride makes for a supremely winning combination.
The authenticity of sound, melody, tone and atmosphere is what hits you instantly with Cool City Nights. The open, live soundscape is electrically charged with energy and feels spatial with the instruments yet intimate with the vocal delivery and huge bass and synth hooks. Cool City Nights sounds like cool city nights, which is the best way I can describe the atmosphere Fanateek One presents throughout the whole record. 'If You Want To Be' is the first song and it really welcomes you into Fanateek One's world with a smooth, panning bassline and suaveness in the groove you'll move to effortlessly. Rach B's vocals are a huge success on this record as they are the perfect combination of intimate, street, sweet and sassy when they need to be and channel many classic 80s chanteuses while building on her own personality throughout the album.
Fanateek One's been hard at it with his vocoder work too and provides a male partner for Rach B's feminine touch. The vocoder is implemented as a true feature more than a novelty, as should be the case with 80s funk, and there are some great passages of back and forth between Rach B and Fanateek One on tracks like 'Supernatural' which work together smooth as glass and displays a magical chemistry between the music and voices.
Once you get a few tracks into this album you begin to really appreciate the exquisite level of care given to the tracks. Each song feels like a perfected idea that has been put together and evolved over many, many hours of passionate toil. Not only is the songwriting professional but it is also hugely soulful. Funk has a huge link to soul and R&B sounds and often times modern age producers rely on elements that come off as cold and sterile, but Fanateek One's brand of funk is so warm and full of life you can feel its soul pulse with every beat. You just can't deny the magical feel that tracks like 'New York Boy' and 'Holdback' elicit as you're guided through the urban wonderland of sounds.
Fanateek One has been hugely judicious with his choices of instruments on this record, you can aurally feel the scrutinising given over every possible element in each track yet the end result comes across as being entirely smooth and effortless. 'Struck By Your Love' is one such song that is just so polished and engineered to perfection that you'll be enraptured by its funky brilliance from beginning to end. These songs demand multiple listens to appreciate the musicianship and marksmanship Fanateek One and Rach B rock out like seasoned veterans.
As I mentioned previously there are so many great variations funk music had in the 80s from the club classics, to the street funk boombox ammunition to the midnight romance and everything in between. Cool City Nights manages to capture many of these styles very eloquently and shifts betwixt their tones from track to track without taking the listener out of the atmosphere. On 'Boogaloo' Fanateek One extends his influence out to about 1987 and brings in some seriously contagious hooks that are then allowed to simmer and become even more flavoursome with Rach B's spicy vocals giving a luxuriously piquant zest.
For all the intricacies in the production some of the most incredible moments on Cool City Nights are the most simple and distilled. 'Maverick' has become an anthem for me, an absolute piece of refined perfection that is untouchably beautiful. The set up, the pay off, the groove and every single other part of this song is utterly kick arse to the max. Stupendously rockin. The pop funk sounds hit a new high point in the next track, 'Stranger', with its ridiculously catchy bassline and sublime narrative this would be the Top 10 pop chart smash of '85 from Fanateek One and Rach B.
Cool City Nights finishes the experience with the floor filler 'Just Wanna Dance'. Cutting a groove miles deep with an uncompromising energy the interplay between the guitars, synth, bass and drums is compelling and addictive. The only instrumental piece on the album this book ends the experience flawlessly with a high note that lingers long after the music finishes.
Fanateek One and Rach B present the Cool City Nights album on Bandcamp here in digital formats and also on irresistibly wondrous vinyl (limited to 500 copies!) on Fanteek One's site here. I must say, listening to this album on vinyl has been one of my favourite experiences in listening to 80s inspired synth music in 2015 and I highly advocate picking it up in its most befitting format. Cool City Nights is an album years in the making and it has been well worth the wait. The incredible refinement of the production and the excellence in the songwriting across all the tracks makes it an indubitable Synthetix Reference Experience that is a must-own album of 2015.