Over the past few years, the Netherlands have become the default home for European Nu-Funk groups. Where we in the U.S. have the Dap-Kings and the New Mastersounds, Funk fans overseas get down to Speedometer and AIFF. The brainchild of producer Phil Martin and musician Tom Van der Kolk, AIFF (an acronym for Afro Influenced Funk Federation NOT Audio Interchange File Format) dabble in the kind of new school Afrobeat that has made stateside groups like the Daktaris and Budos Band so popular.
But what sets AIFF apart from the aforementioned U.S. outfits is they’re strictly a studio group, performing live with only dub plates, tape delays, a saxophonist, and a toaster (MC Crucial T.) Of course if you’ve ever seen Budos Band live, you know that the massive horn section blasting your grill is the best part of the experience, so one can only imagine AIFF’s live shows are lacking a certain element. That being said, these boys come correct on wax, with a baritone sax, trumpet, organ, drums, percussion… the whole nine.
Upon first listen to AIFF’s debut release Afro Soul System, you’ll immediately notice their affection for Afrobeat legend and creator Fela Kuti through their use of a highly syncopated rhythm section and meandering organ riffs. On the album’s first single “Akwaaba,” whose subsequent popularity led to this full length, we get a hefty dose of said drum and bass grooves accompanied by scratchy Funk guitar and ear shattering horn arrangements.
The uptempo cuts “Water Girls” and “The Seduction” are both propelled by stomping 4-on-the-floor beats with the latter venturing into Disco Funk territory, sounding dangerously close to a lost Loft classic, albeit with horn riffs in lieu of strings. “Let It Roll” bumps along likewise in an uptempo fashion but with heavier B-Boy feel, drum breakdown and all. Fans of Budos will enjoy the smoky, dark vibe of the Ethiopian Jazz-esque cut “Mission L’Afrique” whose minimal drum pattern strings you along for 7 beats and then smacks you in the face with an overdriven snare. The spacious groove allows for extended improvisation from the organist and trumpeter.
Despite the similarities between AIFF and Budos / Dakataris, it’s their slight variances which I find most appealing. Like in the case of the album opener “Circles” where the group employs a whispering Rhodes riff over a shuffling drum beat. The airy Rhodes acts as the calm before the storm, the storm being the horn section’s eventual arrival and ensuing eardrum brutality.
In the end, you’ll no doubt draw your own comparisons to AIFF’s stateside counterparts, but with a love of Reggae, Hip-Hop, Funk, and Soul guiding their hands, Martin and Van der Kolk have created a new style of Afrobeat which pushes the boundaries of the genre, in effect creating a new sub-genre in the process.
- DJ Trew
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