During the last decade, Melbourne-based musical conglomerate The Bamboos have been making an impact with a hybrid sound tastefully referencing the great soul and funk of the 1960s and 70s, without ever falling into the retro trap.
That their material has been handled by Tru Thoughts, the Brighton-based independent that has brought forth musical delights by Quantic and Bonobo, already gives it a certain legitimacy – but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Medicine Man, the group’s fifth album, goes down like a mango and lemon syllabub. It’s tastefully done, and possesses many hidden textures and contours; the more you get of it, the more you like it.
Perhaps the best thing The Bamboos have going for them is their superb musicianship. Bandleader Lance Ferguson is obviously a brilliant guitarist but he is never overly flashy with his lead licks; his solos help convey emotion in suitably brief bright blasts of treble, instead of overburdening a tune with unnecessary pyrotechnics.
Bass duties are shared between Ferguson and his creative foil, producer John Castle, who also plays piano and a spot of drums, and the bass lines on this album are suitably cavernous, helping to ground the material between melodic hooks and danceable grooves.
Where Does The Time Go?, sung by Aloe Blacc, is the kind of song that anyone of a certain age can relate to; as Ferguson, Castle and team propel the music forward, Blacc laments the passing of his youth. Co-conspirator Kylie Auldist features on a quarter of the disc, and even if her style is rooted in early 1970s funk, the band pull in enough original elements to make sure the work is always their own.
For instance, Window counterbalances Auldist’s blues-funk growl with light strings and a gently bouncing beat. Similarly, Hello Stranger has a great sitar accompaniment that hearkens to 1960s psychedelia, but never in a way that is constrained by the reference. Other guests include Tim Rogers of You Am I, soul crooners Bobby Flynn and Daniel Merriweather, and Megan Washington, whose appealing vocals grace a horns-heavy version of The Wilhelm Scream.
The music here would sound dynamite live, so look out for appearances. And even if you can’t make it to a show, this album is definitely worth investigating. Get your hands on a copy and dig in.