WE REVIEW THE NEW ALBUM FROM MUSCULAR – ON THE ONE
Electronic funk project Muscular created by Finnish keyboard player and pianist Ilmari Aitoaho from rock-funk band Tomi Salesvuo East Funk Attack is set to release his debut album this autumn named “On The One“. The product is a futuristic yet nostalgic funk-rave album.
The opening track first released in early 2021 and aptly titled “Auraraver” immediately introduces the listener Muscular’s delightful blend of funk and electronic music that creates an infectiously dance-worthy sound. With the influence of electro-funk bands such as Daft Punk throughout the album particularly on the later track “Stellar Studies” on the opening track its clear in the futuristic, robotic vocals.
The energising beat and classic beep-bop noises to accompany it adds to its surreal contemporary vibe. This track feels like it belongs in a club, made for the consummation of a large crowd. Although pretty much every track on the album suits this mold some other ones that stand out, particularly in this regard are the second track “Word On The Wire” and of course the energetic closing track “Sunburn”. With enthusiasm stock-piled into every moment, “On The One” is an album in which every track makes an impact.
Although it pulls obvious influence from modern genres such as neo-funk and soul and modern electronic music as well as pop music as displayed in the structure of a track like “Word On The Wire”, “On The One” often has a nostalgic touch to it as well. With beats that sound like they’ve been snatched from an 80s dancefloor and keyboard style evocative of the work of artists such as Herbie Hancock, Muscular creates a world of music that both propels its listener forward into the experimental future and present and blasts them into the past. The track “Don’t Breathe On Me” almost even has a 90s girl group pop song vibe to it with hilariously catty and dramatic lyrics and a catchy chorus.
As well as blending the past and present together on “On The One” Muscular blends together different genres of music impressively well, not just electronic and funk music. On the track Afro Neon Blue Muscular introduces some Afro-beat sound combined with jazzy saxophone, pop influences as discussed previously can be heard throughout the record and on the closing track, Muscular brings hip-hop into the mix as well. Arguably the most experimental track off the album “Losing = Winning” somehow fuses gospel harmonies with mellotron and Muscular’s modern production style. Being capable of boldly mixing all these genres into one album shows the strong innovation and curiosity that Muscular presents in his eclectic musical creations.
On his debut album, Muscular has picked his collaborators wisely and the tracks in which he brings in other musicians are often some of the best on “On The One”. One of my personal favourites from the album “Demons” features female vocals and is a deliciously funky and undeniably groovy number encouraging the listener to let go of their demons and immerse themselves in the music. The same vocals are featured again on the track “Don’t Breathe On Me” a sassy electro-pop tune that sets itself apart from much of the rest of the album. “Keep The Lights On” with Sam Huber is probably the funkiest and most nostalgic sounding number on the track list with almost comical lyricism and the gravelly vocals of Sam Huber adding to the track’s vintage feel.
Certainly not without surprises, “On The One” is an album scattered with tantalising twists and turns. From a surprise keyboard solo mid “Word On The Wire” to the surprise slow piano ballad “Losing = Winning” that becomes even more surprising with the emergence of electric guitar and synths into the mix. Muscular is an artist that aims to shock in the best way. Proving in his debut that he is multifaceted and multitalented, whatever comes after “On The One” can only go upwards from here.