A decade of touring has earned New Zealand collective Fat Freddy's Drop a reputation as a live act of the highest calibre, the Wellington-based seven-piece celebrated for its improvised, marathon jam sessions.
Taking these sessions into the lab to craft them into polished studio albums is the outfit’s penchant. Essentially, they do it the old-fashioned way – and it has paid off massively. ‘Blackbird’ is their third full-length studio LP, on which hip-hop, soul, jazz, reggae and funk blend effortlessly. Throughout, the music remains organic, heartfelt, and spontaneous, capturing that jam-session atmosphere.
With tracks averaging eight minutes in length, ‘Blackbird’ reintroduces the LP to the iPod generation. Its seamless tracks demand to be listened to in sequence. Appropriately enough, it was recorded at their own studio, Bays, which was one of the last vinyl pressing plants in New Zealand.
The fairly meagre reggae of title track ‘Blackbird’ combines with the following ‘Russia’ to comprise a premature pang of disappointment. But the brilliance of the upcoming, cornerstone cuts more than makes up for this lacklustre introduction.
‘Clean The House’ (video below), ‘Bones’ and ‘Soldier’ – the latter this album’s truly stellar track – appear to pay homage to the psychedelic grooves and bluesy vocals of neo-soul legend, D’Angelo.
Later, the penultimate ‘Mother Mother’ is a belting horn-filled jazz/funk workout, with a dusting of spicy techno stirred in, which crystallises the notion that this album must be witnessed live to truly appreciate the musicianship of its creators.
Words: David Aaron
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