May 25, 2012

Monophonics - In Your Brain

Psychedelic Soul, sometimes called Black Rock, is a sub-genre of Soul music, which mixes the characteristics of Soul with Psychedelic Rock. It came to prominence in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s, playing a major role in the development of Soul and Funk music.

Over the past seven years, Monophonics have staked their claim as one of California’s premier bands. Raised amid the Bay Area’s rich musical culture, Monophonics has proudly carried on the tradition of music native to their hometown, which flourished during the birth of psychedelia.

Monophonics were formed in 2005; originally a instrumental ensemble comprised of guitarist Ian McDonald, bassist Myles O’Mahony, saxophonist Alex Baky, trumpeter Ryan Scott, and drummer Austin Bohlman, the band has recently added the dynamic soul vocals of keyboardist Kelly Finnigan. The result is a psychedelic soul & heavy funk sound, which harks back to the stylings of the late 60’s and early 70’s, all while keeping its feet planted in the present.

As a mainstay of San Francisco venues such as The Independent, Brick and Mortar & Boom Boom Room, the Monophonics have created a national buzz and fervent local following, sharing the stage & bill with such names as Budos Band, Orgone, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Kings Go Forth, Soulive and many many more. Their touring schedule has brought their signature rowdy, hard-hitting live set to over 400 dates from California up to Motown and down to Louisiana establishing themselves as yearly residents at the legendary New Orleans Jazz Festival. The band has also played some of the major music festivals on the west coast including High Sierra, Joshua Tree, Blacksheep Family Reunion, and Las Tortugas.

Already in 2012 the band has signed on with top booking agency Intrepid Artists Int’l and has seen their touring schedule triple fast and has helped get them get in big festivals like Wakarusa in Arkansas and the Portland Waterfront Blues Fest in Oregon. Other big news in 2012 is the bands new record “In Your Brain” which will be released and distributed worldwide May 15th by legendary label Ubiquity Records (ORGONE, Shawn Lee, Breakestra, Connie Price & The Keystones). It was recorded & produced by Ian McDonald and Kelly Finnigan in San Francisco and was mixed by Sergio Rios from ORGONE at Killion Sound in LA. With a transformation of the group in the last 18 months, they have matured and found our own sound. This new record sits on the fuzzy psychedelic side of Soul and Heavy Funk! Taking a cue from their San Francisco roots and greats like Norman Whitfield, George Clinton’s Funkadelic, David Axelrod and Sly Stone the group has found their path which has taken on a direction that focuses on great tones using analog equipment, a simpler and more spontaneous songwriting approach and trying to always catch a vibe that brings back thoughts of the 1969 psychedelic movement!

San Francisco, the end of the sixties. Peace and love on Haight / Ashbury; Santana and Sly & the Family Stone riding high in popularity. Heady times. San Fran’s Monophonics were all too young to be there at the time of course but the era has had a profound influence on them as has the music of the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, Norman Whitfield and Funkadelic.

With their third release,”In Your Brain”, heavy, chugging grooves laced with wah-wah, horns, spacey organ and psychedelic vocals are the order. It’s fuzzy, gritty and refreshingly different. Mixed by that other heavy cat, Sergio Rios from Orgone, it sounds suitably out there. It’s been a few years since I last visited San Fran but I’d like to think this would be a fitting soundtrack for the city’s hippest hangs.

One of the standout tracks here is “There’s A Riot Going On”. Perhaps this was intended to be the ‘missing’ track from Sly’s 1971 hit LP (it appears on the track listing at the end of side one, but is silent and clocks in at 0:00 running time. Sly never intended the track to be there of course, explaining that he “felt there should be no riots”). The Monophonics’ ‘version’ is a fitting imagination of what it might have sounded like, with socio-political lyrics fitting of both the times then and now.

“Deception” drops the tempo and stretches out nicely, while Fanny Franklin is the ideal choice of guest vocalist for the rousing “All Together”, her voice really effective against the undulating, heavy groove and Sly-ish background vocals. Also somewhat Sly-ish is, “Say You Love Me” featuring some nice sitar over a slow burning groove, singer Kelly Finnigan’s well suited vocal and gentle organ solo. “Foolish Love” is a stretched out groove that sounds like a Norman Whitfield production with its acid drenched funk. We also get two well chosen covers – Ike Turner’s “Thinking Black” fits right in with the template and packs a thrilling dance floor punch. For their excellent take on Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, the band produce a heavy arrangement that sounds great and sets it apart from the original.

“In Your Brain” effectively and authentically delivers a solid psychedelic soul funk experience. It’s a fine tribute to their influences while coming across as firmly their own sound. More power to Monophonics.


01. Looking Ahead
02. There's A Riot Going On
03. In Your Brain
04. Sure Is Funky
05. Deception
06. All Together
07. Say You Love Me
08. They Don't Understand
09. Mirage
10. Foolish Love
11. Thinking Black
12. Bang Bang
13. Temptation
14. Keep Looking Ahead

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