30/70: Elevate

- The endless, funky party that is Melbourne’s 30/70 has kicked up a notch or two in the last few years. Their infectious stage presence has had them gigging across the globe and -at the other end of the planet- they caught the attention of UK tastemaker Bradley Zero Phillip who is putting out their new LP on his Rhythm Section International label. Hype and box-office receipts are one thing, but do this band’s musical strengths meet the benchmarks set by a rising profile?

In some ways it’s actually like nothing has changed: this is the same warm fusion of all sorts of funky, soulful, jazzy, hiphop craziness that endeared 30/70 to everyone in the first place. I’m kind of wondering when the bubble is going to burst, to be honest. There’s a lot of this sort of fusion in the world right now. The basic tenets of the style were laid down as far back as the ‘60s (or earlier - hey Sun Ra) and its contemporary resurgence in the hands of FlyloHiatus KaiyoteThundercat and many others has been melting heads for a decade. How long can it be before one bunch of jazz graduate wannabes too many comes along and poisons the well?

Don’t be afraid for 30/70 though, they only seem like they’ve been standing still, at the most superficial levels. Their first full-length Cold Radish Coma set itself apart from the rest of future-funk around in 2015 by just feeling more warmly alive. They sent hot blood jetting into the veins of a style that, at its worst can be far too cold, cerebral, overthought. In 2017 the focus on that human connection to good ol’ songcraft has only become stronger. Elevate has far fewer of those tiny little jazzy fragments so favoured by their stylistic co-travellers, everyone from Flylo to Vulture St. Tape Gang. In their place are much more solidly realised songs: jams that have the time to get out there under the disco ball and really strut their stuff.  From the melting soul of Slangin’ to the speeding afrobeat of Nu Spring and the jazzy agility and urban tinges of Misrepresented, all these songs stand strongly, in their own right.

As per the 30/70 operations manual there’s a lot going on in every song, but beneath all the superficial diversity, in an odd way, there’s something about Elevate that refuses to conform with what their contemporaries are doing. I think it comes back to that dark, even lo-fi production of theirs. The band have the chops to do anything but whatever that might be, it’s always powered by a warm, funky core that some people have compared to ‘90’s artists like D’Angelo or Lauryn Hill; well it’s also very much the calling card of 30/70. Happily it also makes a real treat of the moments when they stray furthest from the formula: like the slow, ‘60s 6/8 croon of Takin’ Me Back or the nutty experimental afrobeats of the Lucid interlude.

Some like-minded Australian exports have really threatened to break out big lately. Everyone’s been tipping Hiatus Kaiyote, Jordan Rakei and now I think it’s time to throw down some dollars on 30/70, they're due a big win.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Elevate
Artist: 30/70
Record Label: (Rhythm Section International)