Last year we told you about this funky, compact combo from the San Francisco Bay area by the name of Flowtilla, and their last album Waves and Particles showed how you can wring a lot of funk from such a little band. All that’s needed are musicians with great chops who can mold great grooves.
Waves and Particles is now being succeeded by Recalibration, yet another foray into condensed, airtight grooves. The title suggests they’ve changed things up but they didn’t mess with the basic formula, just made a few minor adjustments. Guitarist Len Paterson and bassist Ellen Schoenwetter are joined on drums this time by Adam Goodhue, and percussionist Jon Otis plays congas for a handful of tracks. Both Paterson and Schoenwetter add unobtrusive keyboards to a few selections. But as before, this is simple, no-fuss funk like the early, “Sissy Strut” era Meters, and the two principal performers together write all the tunes.
Also as before, Paterson and Schoenwetter keep everything concise. They’re both fine soloists, but don’t need to take more than 30 seconds to impress that upon you, putting good melodies and rhythms above all else. Fifteen, mostly one-name songs like “Debut,” “Greasy” and “Armadillo” with similarly short running times, but typically constructed with catchy riffs, vamps and a few cagey change-ups. “Recalibration” is one of those instances where they shift from one kind of groove to another on a dime, and “Potential,” my personal favorite cut, is an example of where they marry an arresting, shifting harmony to chugging beats. The beats on “Extra Mile” are extra slippery, moving between a second line and old-school funk without disturbing this groove. Keeping things from sounding too mundane from sameness, Flowtilla visits other styles, like the surfer rock of “Jetsky” and the country-tinged rock of “Armadillo.”
Do they ever slow down? Well, “Take Your Time” is a chill, almost reggae groove and “Aloe” starts off slow but turns into a mid-tempo rock song. So no, there are no ballads in the bunch.
That’s why Recalibration flows so well. But then, what else would you expect from a band that calls themselves Flowtilla and lives up to the name?
Recalibration is officially released January 17. Purchase the CD on CD Baby here.