'Encounters' is the fourth full length by Austrian band Sofa Surfers. Despite having a name that implies they are a chill out band, Sofa Surfers are no more 'chill out' than The Pop Group were pop. In fact, Sofa Surfers share many qualities with bands like The Pop Group or Amsterdam's The Ex, though admittedly Sofa Surfers sound is more languid than the others.
Each band has been written about as living in squats, and being politically aware and involved. Each have more in common with the model of the painter or artist than the model of the pop musician as careerist. Each have sounds that can suddenly veer from melody to dissonance, from relaxation to edginess. Mark Stewart, the vocalist of The Pop Group, even sings one of the songs on this record.
There is an element of danger running through the dubbed out rhythms of Sofa Surfers. When maracas are shaken in River Blues, they sound more like the shake of a rattlesnake tail than a percussive element.
The music is centered around a fat bass guitar, tight drum beats, sparse electronic sound manipulation, and lots of percussion accents. On this record, the band has brought in guest vocalists on all but the last track.
The guest vocalists will be the most difficult aspect of this new record for longtime fans of Sofa Surfers. In the past there were songs with vocals, but they were always for of an element than a front row center component. 'Encounters' places each guest vocalist prominently in the song structure. The vocal styles range from dancehall (DJ Collage, MC Santana, Lil Desmond Levy), soul (Dawna Lee, Jeb Loy Nichols, Junior Delgado), rap ( Sensational, Oddatee, Dalek and Devi), to maniac (Mark Stewart).
In the end, anyone who has enjoyed Sofa Surfers in the past will find that the collaborations make sense, and that none of the new songs have a cut and pasted feel to them - all the tracks seem to be completely integrated and thought out.
The Junior Delgado track See The Light sounds like an updating of the sound of Undisputed Truth. It is not a sound I would have expected on a Sofa Surfers record, but I am glad that it is here.
I really like almost all of the songs. Some because of the music, and some because the balance between music and lyric is perfect. the best example of the music/lyric fit is River Blues. The band must feel that way as well, as the lyrics to this track are the only thing printed on the orange side of the 4 panel foldout booklet in the jewel case. River Blues reminds me of two other songs: Al Green's Dock of the Bay and Groove Armada's At the River. Though these three tracks are musically very different, they each capture a feeling of hope balanced with humility and knowledge that others have met the same view and seen hopelessness and despair.
On the embankment by the river that's where I go On the embankment by the river watching the river flow
I'm gonna sit, watch the world float by stay up here where it's high and dry River running to the sea muddy water never troubled me
Many are the men I've seen jump right in and every one thought they could swim But it's dark and it's wide, a long way to the otherside I've seen them go down and never come up again
It's the river of life, it's rough and rocky too the river of life can get you down Always moving, shifting, never just sit and take your time as for me, I think I'll stick on solid ground
There is much to recommend about this CD. I just wish Sofa Surfer records were easier to find. This copy was bought in Poland at Nagrania Muzyczne in Krakow. It is the only place I have found 'Encounters.'
- Formula feat. Sensational
- 21st Century Army feat. Oddatee
- River Blues feat. Jeb Loy Nichols
- Babylon Tymes feat. DJ Collage
- Twisted Tongue feat. DJ collage
- Elusive Scripts feat. Dalek and Devi
- What Kind of World feat. Lil Desmond Levy
- See the Light feat. Junior Delgado
- Can I Get a Witness feat. Dawna Lee
- Home Truths feat. Mark Stewart
- Passin 'Tru feat. DJ Collage
- Selling Souls feat. MC Santana