Amp Fiddler - Basementality 2

Amp Fiddler
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Amp Fiddler is a living legend. More than a backing musician for the iconic Enchantment, more than a keyboardist for George Clinton’s P-Funk, more than a collaborator on Maxwell’s eponymous debut, Urban Hang Suite, more than a man who introduced producer extraordinaire J Dilla to the tools that would later write his dearly departed name among the greatest, Amp Fiddler is a top-notch solo artist in his own right with two instant classics of independent soul music. Waltz of a Ghettofly released in 2004 and 2006’s Afrostrut are modern-day Detroit soul funk at its panoramic finest made great by one of that city’s very own. Basementality 2 joins them as Fiddler cooks up his reported forthcoming full album releases, Ampidelic World and Digitarian.

Amp Fiddler is a living legend. More than a backing musician for the iconic Enchantment, more than a keyboardist for George Clinton’s P-Funk, more than a collaborator on Maxwell’s eponymous debut, Urban Hang Suite, more than a man who introduced producer extraordinaire J Dilla to the tools that would later write his dearly departed name among the greatest, Amp Fiddler is a top-notch solo artist in his own right with two instant classics of independent soul music. Waltz of a Ghettofly released in 2004 and 2006’s Afrostrut are modern-day Detroit soul funk at its panoramic finest made great by one of that city’s very own. Basementality 2 joins them as Fiddler cooks up his reported forthcoming full album releases, Ampidelic World and Digitarian.

The sequel to his 2002 Basementality four-song electronic, deep house, and downtempo vinyl-only release (a feat he’d deftly repeat with 2003’s Love and War EP, another soul rarity), is Fiddler’s first release since 2008’s Inspiration Information with Jamaican reggae pioneers Sly and Robbie of Grace Jones fame. The six-year gap is explained by the untimely death of Fiddler’s son, drummer Dorian Anthony Fiddler, who was already on his way to following his stylish father’s musical footsteps. After any artist suffers such a devastating loss, one looks to see if anything has changed in the music itself. Lyrically, themes of healing through love (“More Than”) and fighting for love’s survival on “Hold On” may provide some insights but aren’t considerably different from the kind of conscious relationship themes Fiddler’s always covered. Known for rapturous soundscapes and greasy funk vocals on a line of releases starting with 1990’s With Respect, when Amp was then simply known as “Mr. Fiddler,” Basementality 2 just continues that tradition. If anything on such songs as “More Than” and on his duet with Raphael Saadiq on “Take It,” Fiddler’s voice has acquired more character and grit with age, almost beautifully breaking at time with feeling. A blend of Ron Isley, The Soul of John Black, and Martin Luther, Fiddler’s instrument is one that has benefited from age and rest, like a fine cognac.

In just six tracks, Amp Fiddler already sets an incredibly high bar for other soul artists to follow for 2014. The smooth R&B of “More Than” is the kind of layered production you’d expect from Leon Ware if he were just reaching his prime today. A much buzzed about producer who has definitely been coming into his own with such releases as Side Effects and Red Pill, Daniel Crawford has a brilliant hand at making “Hold On” a throbbing dancefloor jam that moves between bedroom R&B to an inspirational soulful house two-step. An extended version of “Hold On” opens with a revival of Detroit’s Motown hand claps and retro soul in a bed of peppy brass that transitions to a new age disco groove before finally settling on a deep house party. On “Hold On” extended, Fiddler’s vocals positively sear through the speakers in bedrock soul, showing off at musical high points. Arranged so intricately they make it look effortless, Saadiq is a worthy singing companion on the peekaboo organ, bass, and guitar head nodder, “Take It,” a song rich in naughty innuendo. “Yeah!” is a drum and bass extravaganza shows Fiddler’s been paying attention to the kind of kinetic ‘60s soul pop that Janelle Monaé (and Andre 3000 before her) specializes in, which Fiddler meets lick for lick. Classical and light, Fiddler takes a complete 180 on the strolling “Always” and turns in a cotton candy pop confection brought to earth by his all too knowing voice.

Already the release to beat for 2014, in just six flawless tracks, Amp Fiddler has demonstrated why he’s always worth the wait. Moreover, he has come back stronger than ever before with a vocal skill that feels like more than it has ever been. The productions and lyricism are reminiscent of the hunger Fiddler showed on those early vinyl releases that made him a name to know for new generations. Amp Fiddler’s Basementality 2 is timeless music for a timeless artist. Somewhere overhead a son is looking down on a father and beaming with well-deserved pride. Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 

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