Lance Ferguson’s Raw Material is something of an homage to the early days of hip hop – crate digging, sampling and then creating something altogether new, from the original source. Divided over two CDs, the first comprises the ‘reworked’ tracks, made with samples from the ‘original’ tracks, collected on CD two. Ferguson, known for Melbourne outfits The Bamboos and Lanu, recorded the original tracks with a multitude of musicians, pressed them onto records, and sent a copy to 12 different musicians/producers from around the world to rework. The outcome is an album of dance floor fillers, soul jams and Aquarian funk.
The first CD, perhaps understandably, is not as cohesive as the second. A collection of hip hop, house and soul, multiple tracks fail to hit for six. Opener Back To You is classic sounding, laid-back Aussie hip hop. Casual flows and a catchy hook over a toe-tapping, boom bap beat. Third track, Thick and Thin is similar, a collaboration with Katalyst. The disc then moves into house territory with Jace XL of Hiatus Koyote, laying down some cheesy lines about haters over a fairly generic beat on Don’t Stop. It might be a hit! The dance floor continues to be repped with the funky disco sounds of All I Got.
Outer Excursion with Javelin marks the first example of what I find most exciting about this album – introspective sounding, Aquarian jazz, reminding me of Roy Ayers or Rotary Connection’s Black Gold of the Sun. We quickly dive back into some house with Vantage Point and Do U Want Me 2 Stay? There may be another hit in the ‘Mayer Hawthorne lite’ sounding All Day All Night, which is followed by a similar sounding Make Somebody Mine, featuring Kylie Auldist (The Bamboos) nailing the catchy hook.
Lanthology gets back into the introspective 70s, with a spacey, synth jam, a rolling break beat and random samples rounding out the track. It gets the head nodding. The first disc finishes on a Clairmont The Second rap over disparate, jazzy sounds, held down by a nice bass loop.
A nice soul track, again featuring Kylie Auldist, opens the ‘originals’ disc. The second track, Yoshiko’s Theme is where things really pick up. It could belong on the soundtrack to a seventies cop film. Followed up with Voyage To The Future, on that Aquarian jazz tip, that excited so much on the first disc. Auldist returns for the sweet little soul jam, 2+1. From here much of the album continues on a funky, jazzy bend with flute solos, vibraphones, crucial bass lines, horn stabs and keyboards everywhere. It’s great. These jazzy jams are broken up by some more traditional soul with Kylie Auldist and some eighties, keytar sounding funk with Fallon Williams.
Overall, the original material works best. The tracks do sound like they’re straight from DJ Shadow’s or Madlib’s crates. It’s a great exploration of 70s dance floors. The ‘reworked’ disc, though having moments of glory, fails to hit the mark as consistently as the original material. Though it has its faults, Raw Material is a great concept, which surprisingly hasn’t been done before. It’s exciting to see what Ferguson has in store for his next solo outing.