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HSBG Preview: Monophonics 

Wednesday, Sep 30 2015
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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass has never shied away from bringing top-notch funk and soul bands to the party, with luminaries such as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Booker T. Jones, and Mavis Staples all gracing the stage in years past. This year, music fans will get a heaping helping of R&B courtesy of "Screaming Eagle of Soul" Charles Bradley, hard-grooving UK quartet the New Mastersounds, and the Bay Area's own Monophonics.

Formed by drummer Austin Bolman in 2005, the Monophonics has undergone a dramatic evolution over the past decade. The quintet got its start mining a vein of instrumental jazz-funk similar to boogaloo revivalists Soulive and the Greyboy Allstars — whose saxophonist, Karl Denson, guested on the crew's 2010 album Into the Infrasounds.

But with the release of their third album, In Your Brain, in 2012, Monophonics revealed that its members had done some serious woodshedding in the Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack." Drenched in fuzztone and awash in Echoplex delay, songs like "Sure Is Funky," "All Together," and the title track hearkened back to the acid-laced grooves of early Funkadelic, as well as producer Norman Whitfield's most tripped-out Motown creations with the Temps and Edwin Starr. The album also featured a stellar cover of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" that holds its own against the timeless Nancy Sinatra and Terry Reid versions of the Sonny Bono-penned classic.

While still steeped in the '60s sound, the band's latest recording, Sound of Sinning, embraces a different side of the psychedelic era. Without abandoning fuzzed-out guitars and funky breakbeats altogether, the new Monophonics album delivers intricate orchestrations and slow-burn balladry that owe a debt to the exquisite chamber pop of the Beach Boys and the Zombies. Expect the clouds of smoke that hover over Golden Gate Park during Hardly Strictly to get even denser when Monophonics unleash the sweet, lysergic soul of "La La La Love Me" and "Promises."


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David Pehling

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