Review by Will Harris
There’s almost nothing about Funke and the Two Tone Baby that isn’t immediately intriguing: the name, for a start, has all the mystery and other-worldliness of a David Bowie alias, while his own description of himself as a “one-man mechanical alt-blues band” holds so many points of fascination that the imagination runs wild just trying to speculate what it might sound like. What you get is a modern reinterpretation of traditional blues and folk standards through the use of multi-instrumentation and loops, crafted to create the varied music of Kent’s Dan Turnbull, the real name behind the moniker.
And varied it is; this ambitious debut incorporates a range of genres, from the haunting balladry of ‘Ode to the Pirate Ghost Witch’ to the cool, finger-clicking jazz of ‘The Woman Who Stood At The Edge Of The World’, not to mention the driving, urgent single, ‘Battles’, which builds in power and intensity as drum loops, staccato lead guitars and synths simultaneously layer throughout. Turnbull really knows how to kick it old school too though, as he so plainly demonstrates in Delta blues style on ‘The Morning After’, while the opening couplet present him at his most Waitsian, growling through the whip-cracking blues of ‘Bella’s Kiss’ and the funky beatbox of ‘Mountains’. This admirable versatility doesn’t always work to the album’s advantage, however: ‘I’ll Love You’, a twee folk duet, might be likeable, but feels more than a little incongruous in this collection of swaggering blues songs and more poignant reflections on life and love.
Turnbull’s not just diverse in genre either: his enviable talents as a multi-instrumentalist are present almost continuously throughout Battles, whether that’s when he’s channelling John Lee Hooker in ‘The Morning After’, or howling out the harmonica solo of ‘Now You See Me’, the same song in which he displays soundly the power of his voice. However, it’s the uses Turnbull puts his talents to that are perhaps the most impressive, as he continually finds affecting and inventive ways of layering and juxtaposing different sounds and instruments. This is at its most potent in the outro of closer ‘Winters Return’, where the tune of a cowboy whistling gives way to acoustic guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, mandolin, tambourine and digital snare; it’s moments such as this glowing cadence that show that at its best, Battles is proof that in Funke and the Two Tone Baby there is, however nascent, a rare and unique talent for creating something very different.
7.5 out of 10
- Bella’s Kiss
- The Woman Who Stood At The Edge Of The World
- Ode To The Pirate Ghost Witch
- I’ll Love You
- Now You See Me
- The Morning After
- Winters Return