review by Ben Guerechit
There was a mythical science discovered in the 1930’s by a man named Wilhelm Reich and later embraced by everyone from drugged up Beat writer William S. Burroughs and Washington’s own grunge son Kurt Cobain to 80’s art-rock songstress Kate Bush in her tribute to the science and a machine that could apparently make clouds rain, “Cloudbusting” — it’s called orgone. Thought of as a natural “life” energy source that surrounds all living and non-living elements in the atmosphere and said to be an energy that prevents cancer and other ailments, orgone can be harnessed in something called an orgone accumulator.
In recent years, a group of musicians in Los Angeles fired up the accumulator again. The organic energy flow that grooves from the music of deep funk band Orgone has helped spur a healthy dose of life back into the soul music that’s been on its death bed since the late 70’s. The October release of The Killion Floor (Ubiquity), named after band’s Hollywood home studio on Killion Street, is only the latest verification of the group’s rejuvenation efforts. The short history of Orgone is spilling with evidence of their energizing force.
While some of the members had been playing together for 3-4 years previous, 2001 officially marked Orgone’s dissemination to the world of rhythm with their self-released self-titled debuy, which they followed by touring as the backing band for hip-hop legends Pharcyde, Pharoahe Monch, and Tone-Loc. In 2004, the band was taken under the wing of funk/soul/hip-hop revival label, Ubiquity, for the release of the single coving ’70s classic “Funky Nassau.” Inevitably, the Ubiquity connection lead to backing label mates Breakstra on tour and in the studio. Jack Splash and Orgone also converged to create Plantlife, leading to more records, more touring and airtime on the Jools Holland TV show.
That oughta be enough street cred to solidify Orgone’s retro-soul potency. Now in 2007 (oops 2008), The Killion Floor is beginning get more and more airplay (KEXP and other stations have been spinning the album for months now). Orgone is to the J.B.’s, Sly Stone and Electric Flag what Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings are to Martha & the Vandellas, the Impressions and Maxine Brown. Their sound on The Killion Floor is the pure spirit of deep funk and soul that thrived in the ’70s.
While the first track, “Easin'” is just a minute long intro, “Who Know’s Who” is really the first full tune to grind the groove gears and get things moving with some Memphis fried soul. As the band pulls everyone within earshot down into the mud of the Mississippi blues, vocalist Fanny Franklin pulls you out and cleans you off in an Ann Peebles kinda way. Look to Franklin later on track seven, “Dialed Up,” for a turn towards Gladys Knight’s styling, vocally.
Orgone infuses the heart and soul of so many classic groups it’s hard not to make a laundry list. To name a few: The J.B.’s and New Orlean’s own The Meters are both brought to mind on Orgone’s “It’s What You Do,” while jazz funksters the Crusaders and good ol’ Sly Stone are held in high regard for “I Get Lifted.” Meanwhile, the reworking of “Funky Nassau” is grittier and more inspired than The Beginning of The End’s original.
The one-two punch of tracks 14 and 15, “Said and Done” followed by “Duck and Cover,” shows Orgone at their finest, and for somewhat reminiscent of the short but musically monumental marriage of soul slayer Betty Davis and Miles Davis, a marriage that turned Miles onto the funk rock fushion that gave us the Bitches Brew sessions.
Orgone has provided all the elemental power to drive the funk/soul revival to new levels with The Killion Floor. Invisible cancer-curing atmospheric energy may sound like a bunch of hogwash to many, but one thing is certain — Orgone will invigorate your groove spirit and get booty out of its little box and out on the dancefloor.