Album Review: The Uniphonics – Crawl

One of the most unfortunate legacies of the 90s was Rap Rock. Guitars and rhymes together don’t have to suck but it seems like those bands were trying hard to do just that. Thankfully the Uniphonics have gone another direction, mixing rhymes with funk. What could be more natural, since hip-hop was built on beats sampled from 60s and 70s funk records?

This is a first class live band who have been gigging every chance they could get for the last few years and the band’s tight ensemble playing is the result. They can hold their own with local heroes Euforquestra and Dennis McMurrin’s Demolition band, and Dennis shows the love by guesting on the track “We Bring The Funk.” Ben Pierce’s saxophone work mostly adds a top note to the band’s arrangements. But in combination with Joseph McKinley’s keyboards it sometimes sounds like they have a whole horn section.

The two tracks that feature Robin Eubanks’ fantastic trombone playing–“Crawl” and “Land Minds”–stand out both for his solo contributions and the way he syncs up with Ben Pierce. It’s more than the usual celebrity cameo; he sweats with the boys like its his job.

Vocalist Derek “Animosity” Thorn takes care of the microphone. I’ve seen Derek perform in every possible context over the last 10 years (including dropping verses for the Bad Fathers in my basement laundry room/vocal booth) and there’s never been any doubt whether Derek had flow. The Uniphonics give him the perfect setting to shine. His diction keeps things intelligible even though his consonants are soft-edged and he can rap fast without sounding rushed. I think playing with jazz heads has rubbed off on him; he’s fitting his rhymes around the whole band, not just the beat.

This is a strong debut album with a unique flavor that captures some of the fire they bring to their live shows. On “Land Minds” they ask “You want to know where the funk is?” Look no further.

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