09 Apr, 2013

The Delfonics – “Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics”

DelfonicsDon’t let the name of this album confuse you. This is a William Hart solo album, with Adrian Younge producing, playing the instruments, and co-writing the songs. Well, maybe it’s better framed as an Adrian Younge solo album with William Hart singing and writing most of the lyrics. Whatever the case, it’s definitely not a Delfonics album.

William Hart was the founding member of the Delfonics, a group whose recordings have become more celebrated in the underground years later than they were as they were being created (with a few exceptions). Adrian Younge is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and record store owner who has been creating lots of inspired updates of traditional sounds lately. The Delfonics had a rotating cast for most of their existence, so it’s not that weird that Younge and Hart use the “Delfonics” name now. The problem is that this album is better than much of what the Delfonics released.

Although this album only involves one actual Delfonic, Hart’s falsetto was the most unique aspect of the group’s sound. This uniqueness makes it a perfect fit for Younge’s eccentric production. Hip hop grew out of soul in large part, and many of the most popular hip hop artists of the 90’s relied heavily on soul samples. Thus Nas, Biggie Smalls, Missy Elliot, and various Wu Tang projects sample the Delfonics at different times. The Fugees even made a 90’s hit out of a mostly straightforward cover of a Delfonics song: “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love).” Part of the reason that the Delfonics’ sound works well in hip hop is that their songs often don’t have a prominent beat, so they get more interesting when someone adds one.

This album is somehow true to the original Delfonics sound without actually sounding boring or stale–and without sounding much like the Delfonics. This is partly because the drums are often more complex, but more importantly this album showcases Hart’s quirky vocals amid a soul backdrop with influences of the spaghetti western compositions of Ennio Morricone and various strains of psychedelia. Adrian Younge understands old soul as well as he understands what has come since, and the new soul sounds that he’s creating are the some of the most interesting updates of an old genre that exist, in a time when many are updating (or rehashing) old genres.

Listen to this album. Make babies. Find more stuff by Adrian Younge. Repeat.

Review by Shaw Ketels.

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