When Ghost Funk Orchestra’s debut LP for Karma Chief, Song For Paul, made its way onto turntables back in 2019, it felt like it was created in some alternate version of the early 1970s. Helmed by sonic mastermind Seth Applebaum, the band’s jazz-funk rhythms, psychedelic guitars, staccato horns, and soulful female harmonies drenched in reverb gave the music a cinematic flair that had (and still has) few points of direct comparison. Its follow-up, An Ode to Escapism, more than delivered on the promise of that debut, and after an archival release of early EP tracks (Night Walker / Death Waltz), GFO is back with their third LP, A New Kind of Love.
If An Ode to Escapism leaned into the band’s more psychedelic elements, A New Kind of Love emphasizes the jazz, funk, and soul side of their sound. Applebaum’s signature production is still intact, but there seems to be a heavier focus on the rhythm section this time around, with chunky beats and groovy bass lines weaving their way through almost every track. There’s also a little more breathing room in the arrangements, which lets you hear all the details stuffed into each composition.
A New Kind of Love is a very consistent listen, but there are shifts in mood and some tracks stand out a bit more than others. Several of the highlights were released as singles prior to the album’s release, but listening to them in the album context they become part of the greater whole, amplifying the album’s musical and lyrical themes. Songs like “Scatter” and “Blockhead” are classic GFO, with strong vocal performances from the core trio of Romi Hanoch (lead on “Scatter”), Lo Gwynn, and Megan Mancini (lead on “Blockhead”). “Why?,” another highlight, features vocals from GFO newcomer Christine Chanel, who delivers one of the best performances in the band’s catalogue. There are also some great instrumental moments, like the two-part title track that ends each side and especially the Latin-tinged jazz of “A Song for Pearl.”
I could continue to describe all the remaining tracks as highlights but suffice to say that A New Kind of Love is another worthy entry in the GFO discography. It retains the band’s unique sonic fingerprint while adding in some new elements to keep that signature sound from getting stale. Seth Applebaum and his bandmates make it sound effortless, but you can always tell the immense amount of work that goes into a Ghost Funk Orchestra LP, and A New Kind of Love is no exception.
“Scatter” / “Why?” / “A Song For Pearl”
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David Axelrod / Surprise Chef / Sven Wunder
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