On his volume of !K7's DJ-Kicks series, Damon Riddick, aka Dām-Funk, affably replicates the spirit of his weekly Funkmosphere club night. Nearing a decade of existence when the mix was released, Funkmosphere -- started in a Culver City space prior to a move eastward to L.A. -- has made strides in the support and advancement of what night founder Riddick calls modern funk. As first-wave funk and its living museum-style scions continued to be embraced by the rock-centric music press and historians, Riddick and associates have correctly asserted that funk never ceased its development post-disco. The best electro, house, techno, hip-hop, and contemporary R&B does tend to have at least some funk informed by the late-'70s/early-'80s era championed by Funkmosphere. For that crew, certain synthetic percussion sounds and synthesizer wriggles are as much a part of funk's evolution as a chicken-scratch guitar line or James Brown grunt. Though Riddick has never shied away from spinning commercially successful tracks released on major labels, he takes the opportunity here to spotlight obscurities. As is the case with early funk, piles of quality recordings were pressed independently or privately later on, only to lie dormant in bins before they were vitalized by small circles of diggers, compilers, selectors, and DJs. True to form, Riddick's in no rush. He allows most of each selection to be aired out and does so with no tricks. One of the most appealing stretches arrives early, just after a dazed house opener from Moon B, among the few selections waxed during the 2010s. Nicci Gable's buoyant "Can't Get Close to You" reimagines the Mary Jane Girls as a Cameo side project, or as a response to "Single Life" (though it was co-produced by Shakatak's George Anderson). It gives way to an ebullient and breezy electro-funk instrumental from Verticle Lines, one of a few early-'80s aliases used by Barry Michael Cooper before he neologized new jack swing and co-wrote the screenplay for New Jack City. Then comes the thwacking bliss-out "Love Jam" by Randell & Schippers, a yearning/cooing male-female duo who sound like circa-1985 Loose Ends with limited ends. Riddick also moves the spotlight to a variety of contemporary producers, including one-man band Reggie B in Prince-D'Angelo mode, and Dutchman Henning, whose inclusion sounds like a rescued outtake from DJ Quik's Rhythm-al-ism sessions. Riddick also adds a couple previously unreleased productions of his own: "Can U Read Me?," a moonlit Nite Jewel duet, and its following "Believer," a dreamlike solo instrumental that would have highlighted Invite the Light. Since the track list is supplied, there's no need for Riddick to identify what's spinning, as he does in clubs, but he does make the occasional declaration and enhances the kicked-back mood by singing along a bit.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo