British funk group Jamiroquai has returned to the music scene after a brief three year voluntary moratorium. Following special re-releases in 2013 for their’ 20th anniversary, frontman/songwriter Jay Kay and the rest of Jamiroquai’s numerous members flew under the radar until announcing the new album Automaton in 2016. The LP does a wondrous job melding modern electro-pop with the classic funk and acid jazz genres that they helped pioneer in the early 90’s.
There are many electronic influences and sections, as Howard Whiddett was brought aboard as a technical leader of samples and Ableton studios. His fingerprints are all over each song from Automaton. Bassist Paul Turner stands out in nearly every song, his bass lines are anything but conventional but oh-so-groovy.
Jay Kay described the influence and inspiration for Automaton thusly, “In recognition of the rise of artificial intelligence and technology in our world today and how we as humans are beginning to forget the more pleasant, simple and eloquent things in life and in our environment including our relationship with one another as human beings” . The entirety of the album has more of a dance-party vibe than any of the band’s previous albums.
The LP is filled with hits from start to finish, yet there are a few tracks that standout above the rest. The title track “Automaton” quickly informs listeners that this album is like nothing from Jamiroquai of old. Yet familiar sounds of the past do not remain absent, making this one of the best tracks on the album.
“Superfresh” has the makings of a new live favorite, another track on which bassist Paul Turner submits another All-Star performance. A mashup of disco, funk, and EDM make this track extremely difficult to sit still during. Even the “relatively average” songs on Automaton are incredibly entertaining and still feel fresh after five-plus listens.
Among the twelve tracks, “Summer Girl” shows the most roots in the familiar Jamiroquai sounds. The listener can experience the sound of the band from 20 years ago, today. Another track in this vain, “Dr. Buzz” harkens back to many of the Jamiroquai sounds of 15-20 years ago.
“Vitamin” is a beautiful mix of acid-jazz and electronica, with the bass donning a digital makeover and a high BPM. Accompanying a saxophone solo with orchestral strings cascading throughout, bassist Paul Turner truly stands out”. Again on “Carla” his bass tone takes on a extremely synth-y sound as it plays as the lead instrument on another overall strong track.
Jamiroquai’s first album in seven-plus years is a resounding musical success. To be able to return to the studio and integrate modern mainstream sounds into the genre’s they helped make famous could not have been a simple task. Fortunately, acid-jazz lends itself to this type of experimenting and Jamiroquai have combined all the proper ingredients and amounts to create 57 minutes of musical bliss.