Hail the almighty bass – a beautiful cornerstone of countless bands through history. Its versatility is a product of its transformation over time, to become a tool that is both seismic and transient. With such a dichotomy, the possibilities are endless, and that attracts some of the most sagacious of musical minds. Chris “Freekbass” Sherman is one such person; his bombastic aesthetic and revolutionary playing style is evened out by his time learning from one of the most accurate and revolutionary funk bassists of all time (Boosty Collins).
In this focused yet unrestrained way, Freekbass explores the extremes of his instrument while never venturing too far into the obscene, instead riding the line of being an accessible yet progressive artist. Freekbass himself is one of the true cornerstones of a band, with a physical image formed around his vision and shaped by the eccentric. In this new album, All The Way This. All The Way That., Freekbass puts on a clinic for bass enthusiasts, as he invites along a cast of immensely talented musicians to create a work that takes the listener on a travel through funk music’s past, present, and future.
The band on this album is stellar in every performance aspect. The Freekbass Experience is composed of all-star players Rico Lewis on drums (George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic), Sky White on keys (Foxy Shazam), and Sammi Garett on vocals (Turkuaz). Every track is unique in its usage of the band, with Freekbass’ bass lines acting as a centerpiece for most tracks, developed further by his supporting cast. In general, each song could be described as being steeped in a sort of chaotic beauty, creating a very instrumentally deep album that breathes an air of robustness. This is one of the things that defines Freekbass’ aesthetic in a way; from his image to his stage presence, it’s wild, yet neither ignorant nor forced. It’s large, but never overwhelming.
“Blizzard Lizard” offers a great look at this dynamic. A soft opening gets the listener comfortable before the bass slaps them awake, ushering in a groove so funky it warrants a spray of Glade air freshener. While this track has a darker mood, the energy remains potent as heavily effected guitar and synth lines swirl above a dark, black-hole of bass.
Much of the time though, the album has a brighter nature with springy instrumentals and sing-able hooks. An unrelenting pulse between the bass and the drums sets the tone in “You Make Me Wanna Dance.” Here, the vocals sit nicely in an agile arrangement with a lot of interplay between the organ and bass. Added strings nod to older funk and disco. Vocal “ooh’s” on top of that work to create a cinematic atmosphere – a unique experience in a mostly pocket-funk styled song. One thing that stands out here, as well as in numerous places elsewhere on the album, are the transitions between the song’s parts. There is a well-phrased melodic line in “You Make Me Wanna Dance,” much like something out of a Stevie Wonder song. In the more 80’s funk-pop styled song, “Your Love Is Always On Time,” you find a lot of bass fills between side-chained sub-bass and drum breaks ala Prince. And speaking to that point, it’s evident that these modern funk figures, such as Stevie and Prince, lent as much influence to this album as did pioneers like James Brown and P-Funk.
The intricacies in more pop-oriented songs are a testament to the skill of the band on this record. Take “Steppin’ Outta Line” – this song could have easily gotten away with a simple drum beat; bass drum on the one, snare drum on the two, and so on. Instead, you’ll notice that the bass drum lines up almost perfectly with the bass line, which does move around a fair amount without becoming too evasive. One of the lyrics on this song offer a great explanation as to why this type of intricacy is preferred to the more modern simplicity in this funk-pop: “Some may conform with the norm of the time / Others fly the coop / Steppin’ out of line.”
Composition on this album stands out in a big way against the back drop of good-ol’-fun funk jams. Accessible and technical! Modern, yet paying homage to what made this type of music so intriguing to begin with.
The closing song, “Thrust”, sends the album out on a high note, acting as a good cap to a breakthrough album. The chorus holds strong as an earworm. The drums are accurately performed, filling out their function as the co-equal to the bass while breaking out in fills at just the right time; vocals are layered so thick that they are felt seismically. It’s just as much as the bass, though their presence makes it so a voice never get lost in the mix. This chorus is likely the strongest on the album, and along with the chipper instrumental, it is a great end to an absolute trip. As the song fades out, the need to listen through again will surely arise.
Chris Sherman’s on-stage persona is a sight to witness. That taken along with this new album, one should expect to be seeing the name Freekbass more and more over the next year. Make sure to listen on Spotify, and visit Freekbass’ website for upcoming show information as well as live content. Follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more! And if you’re in NYS, you can see him in Marlboro for Mazzstock 2019, playing onstage with Zach Deputy.
Key Tracks: Thrust, Fre3kroNomoKon, Gotta Get Back To You