The Chameleon Project – Funk n Space
Canada has produced some memorable rock acts over the years, but electronic based fusion outfits like this typically hail from American metropolitan areas, the UK, or continental Europe. The Chameleon Project hails from Toronto and blast out of the gates swinging with their release Funk n Space. This is as rarefied as fusion and crossing genres ever get. The Chameleon Project fearlessly brings together a wide array of styles over the course of the album’s ten songs and never strikes a false note. Instead, Funk n Space seems like a natural outgrowth of the band’s musical obsessions and never stretches the boundaries of credibility with its final result. Instead, it crackles, surges and sets listener’s minds alight with an assortment of textures that even older, veteran bands and artists wouldn’t dare touch. This is one of the year’s must hear efforts – particularly for those who believe such musical styles are essentially little more than shallow vehicles designed to get our bodies moving.
“Milky Way” has everything fans of light funk and spirited R&B could ever hope for. It, naturally, leans more to the former side of the musical ledger, but there’s also more than a little jazz influence coloring the edges of this performance. There’s no such jazzy color filling the performance on “Playhouse”. This isn’t the sharply defined funk of, let’s say, Parliament, but it definitely engages listeners on that level and four white guys from the Toronto area sound completely convincing taking on this approach. They sound equally credible tackling reggae with electronica influence on the track “Steppin’”. There have often been voices decrying Caucasian musicians co-opting or culturally appropriating minority music for their own ends and not doing so in a less than authentic way, but you never get that sense that The Chameleon Project are part of such a lot. Instead, they merely offer their own vision of what these forms mean to them and make it work.
“Kraken” takes a distinctly different approach. This is one of the album’s examples of Funk n Space reaching into a rockier realm with the song’s jagged and often angular guitar playing. There’s some ambient sounds propelling this track and adding atmospherics, but they are never handled clumsily. “Reactor” has an expansive, almost jazz-fusion esque sound that challenges listeners while still happily providing them with the right amount of compositional twists and turns to entertain them. It is apparent that the band are top flight musicians capable of turning any trope on its head, but the most remarkable thing is that they do so without ever compromising the accessibility of their material. The album’s final and longest track “Wako” brings their disparate influences under one umbrella united by the band’s creative vision. There’s a little bit of everything preceding it in this tune – the reggae bounce of “Steppin’”, the electronica heard in songs like “Reactor” and “DiMiTri cOde”, and the rock guitar posture assumed on tracks like “Kraken” are all present and never conflict with one another. It’s a highly appropriate ending to one of the year’s most compelling and challenging releases.