Gramatik has always been my quintessential god of grooviness, but Mocean Worker may be overtaking that throne after his newly-released self-titled album. With a tasteful blend of electronic, funk and jazz elements–a little house here, a sprinkle of synth there, handfuls of hunky horn over yonder–Mocean Worker stirs a pot of sizzling, spicy Electro Swing (yes, it is a thing).
Hearing “Soul Swing” was like hearing Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” for the first time–it’s fiercely upbeat, techno-textured and vibrantly optimistic, but yet there’s a goofiness riding the track the whole time; It never takes itself too seriously. Jam-packed with piano and an old timey-feel, the vibe this first track sets for the party record shows depth and off-the-charts mixing.
“I Told You Twice The First Time” has carnival-like mockery to it. Colorful electronic incorporations, repeated female vocals, Richter-scale rhythm, rollercoaster synth and subtly dense bass build a groove that wraps itself in circles.
Tracks such as “The Actual Funk (Featuring Sweetpea Atkinson),” “Savoy Strut,” and “Clap Yo Hands (Mtune)” are techno-charged and sleek. “Clap Yo Hands (Mtune)” has an especially duskier vibe to it compared to others on the album: it begins slow-paced, ping-ping-pinging until an upbeat funk unleashes and fat bass guitar strums along, ultimately creating a warehouse party feel. Dubstep elements gently tug the rope that the opposing happy-groove buzz has a firm grip on for the majority of the album.
There is a good amount of abstraction that Mocean Worker slips in casually. “Julius,Irving,Berlin” gives Mocean Worker a distorted edge, playing up distant-sounding, quick bits of piano, warped tads of techno, and female vocals that sound like chopped television recordings. The opening on “Rubberband” harps and pulses like it’s beating from below water, an undersea horn-heavy dance party for the first few seconds. The beginning of “Now That’s What I’m Talkin’ Bout” also stole my heart with its slow-to-build swing dance, finger-snapping, bass-heavy groove.
While “Ralph and Marcus” is meant for a private striptese–with all of its confident sultriness, clinking percussion and teasing instrumentals–it’s “PunkDisco (Jaco)” that got my hips swaying with wooden percussion and Latin elements. And the title of True Romantic track goes to closer “Collete Ma Belle Femme.” Serene piano adds newfound lightness to the record, making it a sleepy, beautiful surprise. This one plays like a romantic serenade or a lullaby, and I could almost picture the misty mountain ranges as the album comes to a close.
Mocean Worker is for all of those hard-to-pleasers out there; it’s got enough tasteful fun to put a smile on the faces and sway in the hips of even the most snobby listeners. Because, simply put, Mocean Worker is a natural at creating ambiance. He has done for our ears what Feng Shui has done for rich people’s living rooms–harmonized us with our souls. But instead of through our surrounding environments, he has done so via a groovy, funk-inspired, kaleidoscope lens. —Rachel Haney