March 24, 2012
Review: THEESatisfaction – ‘awE naturalE’
THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE
Seattle natives Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White joined forces a few years ago to form THEESatisfaction; a group performing — by its own description — “funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics with the warmth and depth of Black Jazz and Sunday morning soul”. This has been manifested through a string of self-released EPs (including the oh-so radio-friendly ‘Sandra Bollocks Black Baby’), displaying skittish, experimental fragments of drums and abstract poetry slam rap, touching effectively on themes of race and femininity without wielding them confrontationally.
New album awE naturalE professes itself to be a more focussed work — their first with label backing — but one that loses none of the creative idiosyncrasy that initially made the pair so appealing to Sub Pop. Psychedelic and charmingly off-kilter beats roll around underneath part-sung, part-rapped, part-spoken verses, with tracks like the rippling bounce of ‘Deeper’ or ‘Sweat’’s slow-grind incorporating all of the above to good effect.
The duo featured heavily on one of the albums of last year, Shabazz Palaces’ stupefying Black Up, demonstrating a stylistic and geographical kinship with the abstract psych-hoppers. Palaceer Lazaro returns the favour here, popping up on two of the album’s stronger cuts. ‘God’ sees the former Digable Planets man doing his thing over chopped piano and a jumpy afro-beat rhythm; ‘Enchantruss’’ cyclical vocal samples provide a backdrop for Lazaro’s languid, nonsensical bars (“fine and ground, divine/no straight lines, just thick and round/shakes, cakes and pies”)
‘QueenS’ is a toothsome, Sly Stone-style summer soul jam, its incessant two-note beat and implorations to “leave your face at the door, turn off your swag and check your bag” lowering inhibitions by the second. It’s an album highlight, one of the meatier tracks nestled between shorter sketches that sometimes make their leave before really getting going (most surprisingly on closer ‘naturalE’, who’s confusing mid-verse fade out almost sounds like an erroneous brush of the fader).
Sometimes the fiddly experimentalism wears a little thin (see ‘Crash’’s binary approach to lyricism, or the flailing psych-jazz melody on ‘Earthseed’), but awE naturalE is largely an impressive effort: a stimulating take on leftfield neo-soul not too far removed from The Internet’s Purple Naked Ladies. Those of a curious bent should head to the THEESatisfaction Bandcamp page and check out Transitions from last year for the best example of what to expect.
Read this review in context over at THE STOOL PIGEON