A sort of alternative to end-of-the-world Trumpian madness.
“Compos Mentis,” the title of STFU II’s second track, means “having full control of one’s mind.” This album-length EP is funk as self-care, the kind of album that makes you want to strip off your clothes and put on a bathrobe and just not do anything tonight. There are a million other Dâm-Funk tracks like the ones we find here, but familiarity is the point. It doesn’t take us out of our comfort zone but wraps us securely in it.
Dâm-Funk isn’t always so modest. When he released 2009’s colossal Toeachizown, he positioned himself as something like an electro-funk Charlie Parker or Brian Wilson, a figure destined to take this goofy music meant for dancing to its logical conclusion as art. There was a sensitivity and Zen-like calm to this music, and he was as happy to evoke L.A. clichés like night drives and palm trees as create nature vignettes like “Brookside Park.” You could groove to his tracks, but that wasn’t the most important part. “Modern funk,” he called it, and this decade has seen a number of very good imitators, the best on the Peoples Potential Unlimited label.
STFU II embodies this style at the expense of experimentation. Think of a Dâm-Funk track—but not one in particular, just a generic Dâm-Funk track—and you’ll probably come up something a lot like what’s here: wormy bass, the musty thwack of a vintage drum machine, big jazz chords lighting up the whole night sky, something playing a downward-dog melody. Nothing here ventures far beyond that except the ambient cut “Inhale, Exhale” (which should be between three and ten times longer) and the only real experiment, the almost UK garage-like “Deeper,” whose drums seem to perpetually be falling apart and putting themselves back together again in real time.
Dâm-Funk’s been advertising STFU II as a sort of alternative to end-of-the-world Trumpian madness, which is a common angle with relaxing music these days, but he makes clear the comparative modesty of his ambitions. There’s really not much depth to this stuff beyond being easy-listening music, which is how he wants it. Even when it gets “dark,” as on “Hood Biz” and its twisting chords, it’s not enough to kill the vibe, but puts an intriguing wrinkle in the scenery. I found myself wishing Dâm-Funk would twist my brain a little more, the way he does on tracks like “Searchin’ 4 Funk’s Future,” but there are other records for that.
This isn’t A-list Dâm-Funk, but it accomplishes exactly what it intends. Dâm-Funk’s best music is admirable for its scope and ambition, but part of what makes his music work so well is how lush and gorgeous—simply listenable—it is. He’s zeroed in on one of his strengths for STFU II, and even if it’s to the expense of others, it makes for one of his most impressively single-minded albums.