Ah, Fat Freddy’s Drop – more than just a band, more a force of nature.

Aotearoa’s ‘seven headed soul monster’ has grown organically over the years, eschewing much modern music-biz marketing stratagems and long-range forecasts. They just play music, man. I always loved the fact that their first full length, 2001’s Live at The Matterhorn contained four 18-minute tracks – four gorgeously open-ended deep soul/dub adventures in sound. (It was barely promoted and sold and sold and sold…)

Fat-Freddys-Drop-Byron-Bay-22222

Subsequent releases have been more song based in parts, but it is still the great strength of The Drop (named after LSD blotters carrying a pic of Zap Comix freak brother, Fat Freddy) to take us out to the further reaches of dub with an almost Jazz sensibility laying the road beneath us as we travel.

New album Blackbird holds some delicious dub as well as some beautifully stoned soul. Opener, title track ‘Blackbird’ sets up the trip with a bass line that is worth the price of admission alone. The track moves through some Latin piano, sweet soul vocal and dubby horns, coming out the other end into a big, blazing horn coda. All the FFD elements are there, better than ever to my ear – Blackbird seems to have distilled the most perfect expression of their sound yet.

‘Russia’ continues the trip, digging even deeper. ‘Clean the House’ suggests a Motown soul thing, complete with squelchy guitars and floating horns – you won’t hear another rhythm section play a straight 1/8th-beat pattern as funky as this.

You also won’t hear another band roll out a shuffle – the track ‘Silver and Gold’ – quite like The Drop. And here is where the genius of FFD and the remarkable interaction of the band lies – after playing this many gigs (innumerable European and Australian tours) each member seems to work ego-less and uncannily as a part of the ‘seven headed soul monster’, intuitively shaping the sound. Telepathy abounds! It is a very ‘black’ music consciousness – working as part of a greater community, the opposite mid-set of the ‘white’ thing of ego-battle and cult of the individual. (Pardon my glaring generalisation here – but you get my drift…).ffd

And it makes for some entirely sumptuous grooves – the soul pump of ‘Bones’, the almost surreal dubscape of ‘Soldier’, the rattling Latin clip of ‘Mother Mother’ (which contains some of the tastiest horn writing on the album). What is always remarkable about Fat Freddy’s Drop is that they can pick the eyes out of contemporary music, mixing elements of any style – blues, dub, techno, jazz (acid and acoustic), electronica, soul, R’n’B and rock – and always come up sounding like themselves. Is it magic? Blackbird certainly sounds like it is.

To their fans and to new audiences at home and around the world, Fat Freddy’s Drop can do no wrong. It is music that has an irresistibility that comes from its deep humanity and echoes of the most deeply-felt musics of the recent and deep past. And Blackbird will continue to spread the good word, in wider and wider circles.

Details of the Blackbird AlbumTour are at www.fatfreddysdrop.com

Published July 2013 on theorangepress.net

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