Welcome to the Funkommunity, a new group founded by kiwi soul producer extraordinaire Isaac Aesili and singer Rachel Fraser, proving yet again that the new wave of New Zealand music just doesn't stop. And alongside acclaimed names such as Fat Freddy's Drop, Electric Wire Hustle, Ladi6, Mark De Clive-Lowe and MPM's Sola Rosa, Funkommunity make sure that it, in fact, does get better all the time.
MPM first hooked up with Isaac - who is also a singer, keyboarder, horn player and DJ - last year when we released his dark electronica project Karlmarx. Most certainly a man of many guises, Isaac's eclectic musical preferences perfectly mirror his upbringing between various cultures. With his birth father being Guyanese and his birth mother from New Zealand, Isaac got adopted into a mixed Maori and Pakeha (NZ European) family. "In terms of my genes I have African, Guyanese Amerindian, English, Irish, Scottish and Jewish blood and culturally I have a mix of Maori and English backgrounds. As a child I also lived with my family for a few years on Niue Island in the South Pacific. I consider myself to be a coloured multi-identity Polynesian and a citizen of the world."
Isaac's musical vita includes Opensouls, Solaa (a group he formed in the early 2000s with Electric Wire Hustle mastermind Taay Ninh) and Eru Dangerspiel. Besides his own musical endeavours, Isaac has co-written tunes by the likes of Ladi6, Mara TK and Julien Dyne. Isaac and Rachel first caught up as members of the Recloose Live band and clicked right from the start. After collaborating on Isaac's solo album 'Eye See', they set up Funkommunity, a project that eventually grew from a prolific pair into a five piece band. žRachel and i have a strong bond that grew during the making of the album. We eventually came to a point where we were able to be completely honest and from that point the music flowed very fast. We are like musical soulmates and this allowed us to be more free with our ideas", says Isaac.
'Pass It On', the first single taken from 'Chequered Thoughts', saw the light of day in January 2012. The full album was initially released in Australia and New Zealand in October 2011 to raving reviews. Now it's about time to spread FK's very own version of modern day soul music reflecting the aurora australis to a worldwide audience. With their distinctive mixture of future soul instrumentation and sassy vocal performances, ranging from old school jazz to contemporary r&b stylings, Funkommunity have created a sound scape that is just as surprising as it is persistent. Though there clearly is an authentic, analogue feel to the production, Isaac kept sufficient space for his obsession with 80's boogie, humongous basslines and computer beats. The outcome is no less than outstanding " from the rump shaking uptempo grooves of 'Pass It On' and 'Sorceress', to highly emotional synth-gospel jams like 'Dandilion' and 'You Make It That Way'.
According to the enviable density of talented electronic-soul heads in New Zealand, the credits of 'Chequered Thoughts' read like a mere who-is-who of kiwi soul visioneers - with Julien Dyne on drums/percussion, and Christoph El Truento aka DJ Truent and Taay Ninh (Electric Wire Hustle) on the controls. Thus, 'Chequered Thoughts' really turned out to be THE quintessential kiwi soul manifesto the down under scene deserves. "New Zealand is lucky to have such a healthy soul music community, we are like one big family", says Isaac with regards to the special chemistry New Zealand musicians seem to have. "My soul bro Taay from Electric Wire Hustle already knew Rachel from when we were working with her in Solaa, and Christoph El Truento is one of the most exciting new producers here in New Zealand. He sent us some demos which included a beat that we eventually turned into 'Dandilion'. And Julien Dyne is one of my mentors, i have been collaborating with him for years so it was dope to get him on cymbals, percussion and synthetic textures. His parts were like the icing on the cake."