Every year the KUTX staff individually submits a list of their favorite releases, and independently nearly all of us chose a track from BLK ODYSSY’s debut BLK VINTAGE as one of our favorite songs of 2021. How could we not? Sam Houston’s debut LP as BLK ODYSSY is the freshest sound in Austin in 2021.
If genre had any descriptive power remaining, BLK ODYSSY just extinguished it. It’s been a long time since calling a band “rock” or “electronic” has communicated anything, and every year we need more hyphens, clever neogisms, and/or compound words to barely approach a satisfying explanation. Does Afrofuturist-spacefunk-electronic-R&B-psychdelic-soul do anything for you? Because my eyes nearly rolled out of their sockets writing that.
It feels wrong to compare BLK ODYSSY to other musicians too–he’s his own artist, with his own sound, but he’s certainly got one foot in the funk of yore a la P-Funk, and maybe some wonderfully weird Roy Ayers/D’Angelo/Flying Lotus mutant hybrid. The former at least has some merit, Houston grew up in the same small Jersey town as the Prime Minister of Funk, George Clinton, who members of his immediate family toured with in the Seventies. So when Houston croons, “Let me stick this funk in your veins” it’s a transfusion straight from the source. However, none of this speaks to the darkness within BLK VINTAGE. Lockdown was cruel kismet for Houston–it finally allowed him to exhume and look at the trauma of his brother’s death, who was murdered when Sam was only 13. Houston’s grief oozes out your speakers like ichor from a wounded soul, but those ghosts within BLK ODYSSY’s haunted funk won’t reveal themselves until you spend a couple listens with them.
There’s always been darkness buried beneath the groove in the P-Funk family. As Eddie Hazel wails at the heavens on Maggot Brain‘s title track one can’t help but think about all the tragedies we endure in our earthbound existence. Some may think all their talk about the Mothership is silly, but those listeners aren’t looking for salvation and deliverance from a ruthless planet. Like the funk that came before him, BLK ODYSSY will take you on a trip to new worlds if you’re willing to get on board. Just remember, if you free your mind, your ass will follow.
Words don’t mean much though, you need to listen yourself. Thankfully BLK ODYSSY came into Studio 1A and blew our minds with a live perfomance of a few tracks off their future-classic, BLK VINTAGE as well as a cover of Radiohead’s “Myxamatosis.” Check it below.
Album: BLK VINTAGE
Label: After School
“Myxomatosis” (Radiohead cover)
“Gangster of Love”
Sam Houston, vocals; Alejandro Rios, guitar; Adam Jackson, drums; Matthew Muelher, guitar; Mathew Weatherly, bass
Engineer: Jake Perlman; Producer: Deidre Gott; Cameras: Gabriel C. Pérez, Michael Minasi, Patricia Lim, Frank Christenson; Video Edit: Gabriel C. Pérez