A Modern Love
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Musician Eric Boss has been generating serious "who is that" buzz since 2010. Besides touring the world as Blackalicious’ DJ, dude is always into and half of something interesting. Like soul duo Myron & E, an orchestrated uptempo ‘60s panoramic soul outfit that hit pay dirt for Stones Throw Records in 2013. Part of the duo Lucid Paradise, or founder of the electro-boogie twosome The Pendletons, an ongoing project with Trailer Limon, whose 2010 7-inch of "Coming Down/Waiting On You" became an instant cult classic with its pitched down, droopy dog Luther Vandross vibes on one side, and the oscillating vapor phase "fonk" on the other.
The debut solo project, A Modern Love—what he calls "raw funk, sweet soul, west coast vibes, and classic hip hop"—is a well-built, sturdy soul moment representing 20-plus years in the game. Finally WE get that rare gem of a retro-soul project, by a Brother, that adds desperately needed context from a Black perspective. Understand this: Eric “E” Cooke got his first taste for observing the power of distinct musical arrangements with certain eras of bands via playing records as a teen during family card games and fish fry's.
That's culture people. Black Culture.
Next up, he began collecting records of his own and DJing, hanging out at the Music Factory and Rock and Soul in New York City. After relocating to southwest Virginia and graduating from high school, the DJ gigs at local parties ensued, allowing Boss to stack chips, so he could buy an Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard, two Technics turntables, and an eight-track recorder. Once he moved to San Francisco and met Myron Glasper while on the road with the Bay Area’s Blackalicious, Eric released an independent record as a producer under the name E da Boss.
A Modern Love sees production duties handled by Björn Wagner and Steffen Wagner of The Mighty Mocambos / Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, which frees Boss up to do things a bit different. Like sidestepping being landlocked by just one era, a trope many retro-leaning projects fall prey to. Sonically, the influence hovers mostly between mid-'70s to early ‘80s R&B. Don't trip. The dialed-in acumen for making both peak-time boogie joints that slap and subtle plush music for intimate moments that follow, remains in play.
Take “Closer To The Spirit,” a James Brown drum-break manifesto from 2017, when E da Boss became Eric Boss, it kicks the record off with urgency, giving dap to Golden Era Hip-Hop heads. “Spiders,” an eerie punk-funk creeper, featuring the vocal talents of Gizelle Smith, leans in heavy on some synth meets strings fussy orchestration, triggering folks to shake it. Even the Minneapolis cold game slickness of “Get Next To You” conjures up Morris Day peacocking in that gold jacket, chatting up some young woman. By the time Gift of Gab, from Blackalicious, rolls through for some interplanetary wordplay on “I Wanna Ride,” the bounce gets real low, signaling the head-nod procedural to begin.
But it's the affecting vocalist and clever songwriter emerging that displays a significant growth in craft. Penning earnest lyrics about the good and not so great pitfalls of the heart, in the voice of an elder statesman or big brother, Boss poignantly croons an “aw shucks” moment, goosebumps included, running throughout "Is It Love.” With deadpan lyrics like, "Someone I barely know is running through all my dreams,” bewilderment and shell shock, with punch drunk horns swirling in the air, makes the enchantment of first-love sweet, not saccharine.
These close-ups, synched to life lessons accrued on the way to his solo debut, 20 plus years in the making, catch Boss leveling up, without flinching.
Notable Tracks: "Closer To The Spirit" | “I Wanna Ride” | "Is It Love" | “Next To You” | “Spiders”