Some funk bands brow-beat you into having a good time. Some funk bands blast you with a horn figure they lifted from the JBs and then demand you tell them how you’re feelin’. Some funk bands pretend they couldn’t hear you the first time, like some evangelizing summer-camp counselor, and demand you tell them again—louder.
Oobleck are not one of those funk bands. The all-instrumental Capital Region quintet are unabashed about their use of syncopated grooves and feel-good horn improvisations. But they’re not in the business of jamming them down your throat.
Take, for instance, Rise + Shine, the group’s new conceptual full-length, forged this February as part of the RPM Challenge. The disc is a literal day-in-the-life. Over eight tracks, the players awake, head off to work, get home, kick back, and ready themselves to do it all over again. Sure, there’s a party in there, or, more significantly, there’s that surfing-through-the-bullshit vibe that funk is good for, but it doesn’t subscribe to the idea that NoLA-style improvisation is only valid after hours. The abstract Miles-esque fugue “Dream” segues into the pre-caffeinated vamp of the title track, courtesy of a saxophone riff that parrots the squawk of an alarm clock. The groove becomes more insistent through “Get off the Road” and “Work,” as drummer Kevin Van Genechten and bassist Nick Wallas lock step. For a horn-driven band, off-kilter, work-a-day guitar parts provide a surprise backbone to many of these tracks, thanks to Bill Murray (and other bands should be so lucky to boast this celebrity homonym).
It’s Audrey Van Genechten’s trumpet, though, that serves as the band’s guiding light. Without ever totally stepping forward, her extemporaneous voyages prod and encourage her bandmates like an infantry bugler away from the frontlines. Saxophonist Scott Vorwald is often the first to heed her calls, but eventually they all follow through the workday. “Back at Home” finds both horns drifting in and out of reverb-soaked delirium while Murray’s wah-wah settles in for the night.