Whilst there can be no debating that in the last 15 years the home of soul music has returned to its rightful place of Brooklyn, New York, it is time to recognise that Melbourne’s soul scene has now come of age.
Chances are that if you read the paper or listen to (non-commercial) radio you’ve at least flicked past something about The Cactus Channel and their new LP Haptics (Hope Street). Whilst part of the focus is their age (they’re only just old enough to get into bars) it’s still an LP with some nasty grooves from a quality bunch of musicians with an instrumental maturity fitting of the style.
Second to this is Saskwatch. As they embark across to Europe they’re are about to release their first LP, Leave it All Behind (Northside). If this album lives up to the quality of their previously released 7inch’s and sharpness of their live shows then this album is sure to be spinning regularly on the turntables of every funk and soul officinardo between Melbourne, New York and London.
What’s most interesting about these releases is not the bands or their ages but rather who is releasing them. Bands who could now be described as the elders of Melbourne soul such as The Bamboos, Cookin on Three Burners and Deep Street Soul, previously had to rely on European labels for release. But then enter Hope Street who after a series of 7inch releases had full length success with The Bombay Royale and should see the same as they release The Cactus Channel.
Second this with Northside, and although this is Northside’s first release (with the exception of the accompanying 7inch) label owner Chris Gill is as much an elder of Melbourne Soul as any of the bands having owed and run the record store Northside Records for the last ten years. Chris will have no problem garnering the attention both locally and internationally that Saskwatch deserves.
In Richard Guilliat’s slightly inaccurate article on Melbourne Soul he was not scared to call Melbourne “the funk capital of the southern hemisphere.” This has probably been true for some time now given the bands that have been coming from here, but what really caps this is the integration of Hope Street and Northside into the mix. Finally Melbourne soul bands can rely on Melbourne representation and reliable Australian distribution. A friend from Bendigo recently told me that he first heard of the Bamboo’s on a trip to the US. This is a by-product of what happens when local bands sign to overseas labels, the label focuses it’s often limited marketing budget to overseas consumers and leaves very little to the home town of the band.
This coming of age will mean further growth of the Melbourne soul scene. Local distribution and representation means that everyone in Melbourne will (and why shouldn’t they) know about the best local acts hence strengthening the scene and seeing further growth.
Now check out this nasty groove from The Cactus Channel.