I often tout the merits of albums that are unabashedly monochromatic, especially when it comes to rock. I miss the days of AC/DC and Motorhead - the days when bands knew what they were good at and stuck to it. I’ve written glowing reviews for bands like the Relevant Elephants, lamenting the death of good straightforward rock albums, and praising bands for honing their genre.
It’s less often that I listen to an album that’s really hard to categorize. It’s easy to overindulge in artistic experimentation, especially in this modern musical culture where there are dozens of fantastic musical genres available a mouse click away, and when modern country music is using dubstep influences in its rhythm, when most modern pop music uses reggaeton beats, and when the old stalwarts of rock are getting leathery and slow and replaced by Fall Out Boy.
Bands that successfully morph genres together and sound comfortable in each one are rare, and I’ve found one in the Orlando, FL four piece Sweet Cambodia.
They call Tasty, their debut EP, “progressive soul funk,” and the genre is as dense as its name. Elements of reggae, of classic 70s funk, of Motown soul, and even, bizarrely, traces of trash metal, pop up here and there in this EP, but all of the sounds mesh together beautifully and the band performs with aplomb.
The EP opens with “Sky,” and a wonderfully catchy head-bopping rhythm that leads into Yante Beliveau’s clean tenor. Drummer Donnie Fuson’s deft use of cymbals makes the song bounce, and combined with Eric Charles’ funky electric guitar, lets the song twist and writhe with energy.
Track #2 “Anxiety” really shows off bassist Lukas “Savvy” Saavedra, with breaks every few measures for a bass riff. The band is tight on its fills and their unison rhythmic chords in this song calls Hendrix to mind.
Track #3 “Cold Copper” is my favorite on the EP, and shows that the band can slow things down. That’s an important feat, as their website and press focuses heavily on their high energy and ability to rock the house: “their live shows often end in things getting smashed, because they love to top each other with their on-stage antics” (audiofuzz.com). Saavedra also shows off his lower register in this track; the vocal melody has a gorgeous repeating run that sounds very comfortable in Saavedra’s voice.
The band closes their debut EP with “Sun Poisoning,” which opens with a group vocal into an extended guitar solo. This suddenly breaks into an awesomely weird flamenco-ish spoken verse (in Spanish, of course), then into another group vocal, then into a classic funk breakdown. Some of the band’s press compliments their ability to listen to each other, and this song definitely shows that ability.
Tasty is a solid introduction with no obvious flaws; Sweet Cambodia are undeniably skilled, their songs are fun and interesting, and if they play anywhere near me, I sure as hell want to see them smash something.
3. Cold Copper
4. Sun Poisoning