Brownswood Recordings announce the new album by STR4TA titled “Aspects” out 26th March 2021 and the second single ‘Rhythm In Your Mind’, out today! Gilles Peterson has partnered with Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick to reinvigorate the loose, protean energy of the early-80s Brit-funk scene. Long-time friends and collaborators, STR4TA sees them mine new musical possibilities out of that shared formative era.
On the new second single ‘Rhythm In Your Mind’, STR4TA showcase another masterclass in wrapping a track tightly around the groove, showing off the taut musicianship of Francis Hylton, on bass, and Matt Cooper, on keys and drums.
It was through Maunick’s band, Incognito – one of the essential groups of an oft-overlooked, vital pocket of Black British musical history – that they first connected. On “Aspects”, he and Peterson revisit that important period and the spirit that guided it: self-taught, DIY vitality, and a raucous energy built on live performance.
Bringing a fresh slant to a sound first developed by groups like Atmosfear, Hi-Tension, Light of the World and Freeez – with Maunick, it should be noted, also a member of the latter two bands – it’s the first material that Maunick and Peterson have released together in over a decade. First appearing in October 2020 with single ‘Aspects’, the pair didn’t make public that they were behind the project; the limited edition 12” quickly sold out nonetheless, and the track received radio play from Moses Boyd (BBC Radio 6 Music), on KEXP and KCRW, and from Francois K (Worldwide FM), Trevor Jackson (NTS) and Colin Curtis (Worldwide FM).
Peterson and Maunick wanted to approach music-making from the starting point that led to those early records. This meant returning to the era where each of them first found their feet, a period which would shape their respective careers in the decades since. For Peterson, this has been as a tastemaking record label boss, DJ, collector and broadcaster; for Maunick, this has been as a musician, bandleader and composer, touring and making the fabled achievement of scoring chart and radio hits in the USA.
“The idea of the project was to capture that raw, moment to moment sound,” Maunick says, drawing a contrast to the touches of refinement he and his peers have acquired in the years since. In its early days, the Brit-funk sound – and the London jazz-funk milieu it grew out of – was rooted in raucous live shows, rivalling those of the punk bands in that same period. Recalling his role in the process, Peterson says he was the one making sure things didn’t get too polished. “I was there at the back, telling them, no, leave it like that, cut it there, or just use that first take,” he says.
It’s an idea that had been in the works for a while, but which was encouraged by a surprising catalyst: the award acceptance speech by Tyler, the Creator at the 2020 Brit Awards, where he shouted out the influence of “British funk from the 80s”. It was an acknowledgement of the particular sound that Maunick and his peers had honed, where their US influences were re-oriented through their own circumstances. “Like everybody else who plays music, we tried to emulate our heroes,” Maunick says. “But we didn’t have the tools, we hadn’t studied music: were all playing by ear, and we were coming off bits and pieces that we liked off certain records.”Download here