Funckarma: Vell Vagranz

Funckarma: Psar Dymog
Symbolic Interaction

Though it might seem as if each week brings with it new Funckarma product, Vell Vagranz is actually the first full CD of original material since (the now-defunct) Sublight issued Bion Glent in 2006. The Dutch siblings have hardly been idle, however: the remix compilation Refurbished Two appeared in 2007 (a mere two years after volume one), and they also stay busy with innumerable other projects, some of which include Shadowhuntaz (Funckarma + Non Genetic), Quench, and Scone (Funckarma + Kettle). Vell Vagranz is a potpourri of sorts, with a number of tracks involving contributions from Seaming To, Kettle, Spyweirdos, Landau, and phinx.

During the seventy-three-minute set, Don and Roel tackle a diverse range of styles in addition to their usual beat-heavy electronica (“Magaz Stinged,” “Deace”), including dubstep (“Woodfaced,” a reprise of “Woodface” which appeared on the recent Highpoint Lowlife release Dubstoned EP 1) and even, surprisingly, ambient-electro moodscaping (“Ketayseam,” “The Other Dredge”) and drum'n'bass (“Fraid Shim”). “Darker Days” (featuring original material by Landau) finds the Funckens touring a trippy future-jazz zone while “Kinnex,” one of two Seaming To-Funckarma collabs, plunges the listener into a whirlpool of gyroscopic beat patterns and sinuous female vocals. The later “Ketayseam” (the original track by Scone ) pulls the shades down for a hallucinatory ambient workout where Seaming To's emotive ululations and clarinet playing are given free reign. In addition, soprano saxophone and saxello rapturously tango and sputter over a serpentine Funckarma pulse during “The Sound Between Us” (the original track by Spyweirdos & Floros Floridis) while pungent psychedelic aroma permeates the ultra-spasmodic “Basszen” and “Vell Vagranz.” Regardless of stylistic detour or collaborator, Funckarma's tracks always retain certain instantly identifiable elements—whip-crack, hip-hop-influenced beats (hear how viciously the slamming snare kicks the groove along in “Swame Deff”), writhing bass throb, and chameleonic electronic design—the presence of which helps make Vell Vagranz a good showcase for the brothers' skills.

The brothers-that-never-sleep also weigh in this month with their first-ever “ambient” full-length. With album and track titles (such as “Ymadyn Line” and “Jenz Amd”) being largely meaningless, Psar Dymog becomes a pure listening experience in the truest sense. At seventy-three minutes, there's a lot to sink one's teeth into, and with one track segueing into the next, the album feels more like an extended, scenic travelogue than sixteen separate renderings. The album overflows with becalmed and tranquil moodscapes (“Amon Velvet,” “Ymadyn Line”) that alternate with more aggressive settings, such as “Raud Bumb” with its turbulent wave-like rhythms and dramatic, writhing flourishes.

As it turns out, Psar Dymog isn't really ambient at all (if one interprets the term to mean ambient of the “wallpaper” kind) but instead beatless soundscape settings of wide-ranging character and mood, many of them in a symphonic ambient-IDM style (“Tubed Infend,” “Psar Dymog”), others more akin to paradisiacal sound paintings (“Pipe Screen”), portentous nightscapes (“Noire Dane,” “Kardane Syco”), and prog-inflected, extra-terrestrial journeys (“Bee Zaine,” which includes pulsating patterns that recall Tangerine Dream's Phaedra, and “Screed Reasched”). “Fanil Dredged” even closes the album with four glimmering minutes of keyboard funk intertwine and church organ atmosphere. Listeners familiar with the Funckens' preference for mutation in their usual Funckarma material will encounter a similar restlessness in these “ambient” tracks. They're anything but static, as each piece undergoes constant metamorphosis throughout its running time.

January 2009