Los Angeles funk producer and songwriter Damon "Dam-Funk" Riddick has become one of R&B's most idiosyncratic groove delivery systems, a master of unironic synth joy supremely devoted to '70s and '80s tones. For "Higher," the king of the keyboard has teamed with vocalist/percussionist Steve Arrington, whose work with '70s funk pioneers Slave and as a solo artist inspired some of Dam's jams. The pair have collaborated in the past, but "Higher" marks their first album-length project.
The record connects fellow travelers on a journey to the center of a sound, one in which fake hand claps bang alongside synthetic bass tones, layers of falsetto wails roll out lines about making dreams come true ("Blow Your Mind"), soaring through space ("Galactic Funtionals") and freaking out ("I Be Trippin'").
Retro? Yes. This stuff sounds straight outta the funk vaults, so your tolerance for "Higher" will depend on whether you think the era that created early Prince, Zapp and the Gap Band is worthy of revisiting. Which is to say, "Higher" as an album is decent enough, but it's hardly essential.
Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk
2 and a half stars