SummaryJames Braddell AKA Funki Porcini returns with his 5th album for Ninja Tune, his first since 2002's "Fast Asleep". Mixing together surreal jazz, found noise, synthetic strangeness and dream logic, "On" is as beautiful and odd as anything he has made. Braddell could be said to be something of a trip hop pioneer, operating out of the Uterous Goldmine Studio, his "Hed Phone Sex" album in 1995 brought dark surrealism to sampler music, and pre-dated DJ Shadow's first album "Endtroducing". Even before that he released 2 albums in 1994, out of the sunny Umbrain Mountains as 9Lazy9 with Keir Fraser which embraced the coming of the Atari ST and the Aka, amalgamating and manipulating a wide variety of sounds, found and live, such as Thelonious Monk style jams over sinister breaks. All of this helped bring in a golden era of sampler based music, although on "On", more live instrumentation is used than any other of the Funki Porcini albums previously.
The album starts playfully with the introduction of Moog River, a tribute to the late Robert Moog, but it's on the second track "This Ain't The Way To Live", that the dark, dirty and slow hypnotic feel to "On" is announced and shows the variety of Braddells oeuvre. It is classic Porcini, bringing an ethereal and mysterious edge to the instrumental hip-hop template and showing how this man has influenced musicians such as Amon Tobin and Boards Of Canada. "Belisha Beacon" is like hearing St Germain on mushrooms whilst watching an aural time-lapse film of a Zebra Crossing. "Undermud" is a tense smoulder of a tune. "On An Inconsequential Afternoon" is like a pillow hugging anthem with dreamy piano laments over other-wordly bleeps and clicks. Album highlight and centre-piece "The 3rd Man" is a beautiful piece of music, using a haunting pachabel-esque string refrain to maximum effect. It is inspired by frequent reports of Antarctic explorers who felt the presence of an extra person in their party urging them on, who many referred to as The Third Man. "Bright Little Things" once again shows Porcini's talent for twisting a jazz-break and coming up with something playful and deep all at once. "Robert Crumb's Natural Gait" is inspired by the cartoonist's manner of drawing Mr. Natural. "The Magic Hands of Fernando Del Rey" is a driving tribute to Jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and as with much of the material shows Porcini using more live instrumentation than ever before. "Waking Up" is classic wistful Porcini, it subtly builds and builds into an angelic crescendo and is a fitting closer to "On".
The greatest provocateur and humorist of the early Ninja period, Funki re-animates with his sound intact yet sounding utterly contemporary. Funki Porcini has promised to not let it go so long before his next release.