Album Reviews

James Pants – Welcome

(Stones Throw) UK release date: 26 May 2008

‘Fresh beat’. That’s how Stones Throw refer to the music of their new hope James Pants, discovered six years ago by label head Peanut Butter Wolf as he played in Texas.

Even then he had several albums’ worth of tracks, but this is his debut album – and it takes a long look back at traditions of funk, disco and hip hop through the 1980s in particular, but before it gets too far turns back to the road ahead, making an interesting blend of all three for the 21st century.

This manifests itself in danceable music of a slow tempo, resulting in the sort of uncoordinated floor movement that makes you more tired, as it’s more of an effort to dance to! Probably better to relax and let the grooves wind their course, supporting as they do synth riffs derived from P-funk, or economically used vocal snippets.

It’s when the music leans on these chunky synthesized chords that it makes most impression, with Crystal Lite and I Choose You pushing forward with a nice, sleazy does it groove. There are occasional hints of a hip hop grounding, too – well it is Stones Throw after all – and Pants finds a gritty bass and big drums for My Tree, then flirts with rap on My Girl.

The record could perhaps do with more of these vocal interjections, as it’s packed with mostly instrumental grooves. However what there is comes extremely well layered and with a careful structure, well thought through but also retaining the potential for improvisation and a chance to cut loose.

Single We’re Through does well with its slowed down Motown feel, the lazy beats contrasting with the quicker, more energetic bursts that come towards the end of the album. Yet still the feeling remains that a few more vocals would have done wonders for this well produced music, as when the synths are away the riffs sometimes struggle to stand fully on their feet.

That said, with the current Scandinavian penchant for slowing down disco beats and blending in funk and a touch of electro, it’s nice to have a take on the scene from across the water and the plains. As he’s such a prolific artist it will be interesting to see where James Pants turns next, as it’s clear he can lend his expertise to several genres. America’s slowed-down answer to Jamie Lidell, perhaps?

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James Pants – James Pants
James Pants – Welcome