It has been a long period on the sidelines for James Braddell, something of a lifetime in electronic music. He therefore returns in the manner of a footballer from a cruciate ligament injury with his first album under the Funki Porcini moniker for some eight years.
In a sense, little has changed. In records such as Hed Phone Sex and Fast Asleep he had already demonstrated an uncanny knack for intense musical intimacy, with the ability to take the listener from their own hectic environment and set them down in an exotic nation far, far away. This record is little different in this respect, and as he lazily plays around with the melody to Moon River in the opener, the cleverly titled Moog River, it’s difficult not to suppress a smile or a laugh. This is clearly a man who enjoys his time in the studio, and can’t resist a joke or two in the process.
Then the tone darkens, as he moves into a moodier set of textures and beats – but it’s only a momentary cloud passing over the face of the sun. For through this album there is a real sense of enjoyment in the music, with beats or without, and Braddell moves from graceful ambience to more beat driven, syncopated music.
The 3rd Man is particularly affecting, using a kind of Baroque musical round with a solemn grace, the music circling as if in a smoke ring overhead. The slow moving cello and lazy piano only add to the sense of hypnotism, the music caught up in repetitive thought. The Magic Hands Of Fernando Del Rey is a different animal altogether. This tribute to the jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton is an extraordinary combination of the cool vibes with a frantic swing beat, the music lighting up with its own energy as it spins through a whirlpool.
Taken separately, these tracks would make for effective additions to any downtempo set or compilation, but put together they are stuck with an impressive cohesion, revealing different emotional worlds as Braddell takes us on his musical voyage. The effect is that of having a vivid dream on a hot summer’s day – and when you wake up, the birds are still singing, the sun is still shining, and yet you’ve got a strange, random streak of sunburn. This music does things to your head for sure, but when taken late at night this is a journey well worth experiencing.