Karate Boogaloo: Hold Your Horses [Album Review]

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Karate Boogaloo
Hold Your Horses
College Of Knowledge/Colemine Records [2024]

Album Overview: Karate Boogaloo hails from Melbourne, Australia and has been a staple of the underground music scene for over a decade. Comprising Henry Jenkins, Hudson Whitlock, Callum Riley, and Darvid Thor, they began playing music together during their high school years, drawing inspiration from small combo instrumental bands like Booker T & The MG’s and The Meters. Their latest album, Hold Your Horses, is their first album of all originals since Carn The Boogers. What’s particularly interesting about the Boogers album is that it was recorded back in 2017, then set aside until College Of Knowledge Records convinced Karate Boogaloo to release it in 2020. So there has really been seven years between albums, and Hold Your Horses showcases the group’s progression. Recorded and mixed by bassist Henry Jenkins, the album spotlights a new maturity in Karate Boogaloo’s distinct interpretation of instrumental funk and is a fantastic listen from beginning to end.

Musical Style: Karate Boogaloo’s style is rooted in instrumental funk, drawing influences from the deep funk of the late ’60s and early ’70s, European film music, and the new wave of instrumental soul. Their sound is characterized by a restrained instrumental approach consisting of drums, guitar, bass, and organ, creating a consistent and distinct tone throughout the album.

Evolution of Sound: Over the years, Karate Boogaloo has honed their sound, developing a distinct direction characterized by moments that are cinematic, whimsical, and edgy, all connected by heavy funk. Their approach to writing and recording music, with a strict “no overdubs” policy and collaborative studio sessions, reflects their deep understanding of each other as musicians and friends. It is also important to point out that even though Hold Your Horses is the group’s second full-length album of originals, the band also has an excellent series of Mixtape covers records where Karate Boogaloo converts a multitude of different genre tracks into their funk. These albums, along with Hold Your Horses, solidify their place in the top echelon of this instrumental soul category.

Artists with Similar Fire: Fans of Karate Boogaloo should also check out the instrumental funk and soul of Surprise Chef, Magic In Threes, The Rugged Nuggets, and Ikebe Shakedown.

Pivotal Tracks: Key tracks on Hold Your Horses include “The Early Bird Catches” with its foot-tapping grooves and bass riff that sticks with you. “Eyes On The Prize” is a unique sounding cut with wah-wah guitar sliding on a catchy drum groove with an injected crazy spiral of organ with its intense cinematic tone. “One Hand One Bounce” does the job of representing the album’s overall tone of spacious introspection and dynamic builds.

Lyrical Strength: While Karate Boogaloo’s music is instrumental, their compositions are rich in musical storytelling, conveying emotions and narratives through nuanced instrumentation and dynamic arrangements, rather than explicit lyrics.

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Christopher Anthony

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