photos- Mark Franzen
After life’s curveballs sent him scramblin’ like Randall searching for some answers, Philly-based funk/soul frontman extraordinaire Nik Greeley blasts back onto the scene with the Scatterbrain EP. His latest five-track platter provides a more stripped-down, mature, and intimate view into the venerable singer-songwriter’s mindset, mojo, and voluminous skill set. The stylistic update represents the latest chapter in a career that has spanned singing with seminal area funk squad Swift Technique, and his still-vibrant live band Nik Greeley & the Operators; the latter who have made joyful noise all over the city of Brotherly Love for damn near a decade and counting.
Kicking off with the title track, Greeley reveals a shoegazey mid-tempo number that strikes me as part Beatles, part George Michael, and part Lenny Kravitz, tied together with a cutty nod to one of Nik’s biggest influences in Radiohead. The song emanates a state of mind idiosyncratic and pensive, not unlike that of Thom Yorke himself,
On that note, “Peace of Mind” is mined from a different musical universe entirely, with the composition inspired by golden-era hip-hop producer Pete Rock’s Petestrumentals series. One can hear the head-nod in the syncopated groove and hollowbody guitar comp, juxtaposed to a big bridge and smooth chorus. Lyrically, the second cut traverses tough turf like mental health matters and the ever-long rearview mirror. Similarly influenced by “Chocolate Boy Wonder” boom-bap is “Voodoo Guru”, which simultaneously embraces the black psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix and P-Funk’s Eddie Hazel.
On a recent phone chat with Nik about the influences and intention behind this latest batch of songs, he expressed a comfort in his current creative spaces and collaborators.
“I had the pleasure of getting to work together with two of my favorite musicians & producers, Barney Cortez & Kyle Rowe. I’ve been a fan of Barney’s dating back to when he was playing in my favorite Philly band ever, Nico’s Gun, and it meant a lot to me to get to work with him on this one & spend time with him at his studio in Kensington.” explains Greeley. “Kyle is one of the most exciting young musicians in the Philly scene. He’s been playing bass in The Operators for the last few years, and is a great solo artist.”
In addition to Rowe, another longtime co-conspirator – with The Operators and beyond, is Joe Baldacci, Greeley’s right-hand man as drummer/multi-instrumentalist/producer-engineer for many years. After the music was tracked to the artist’s satisfaction, Balducci mixed Scatterbrain , with mastering handled by Alex Santilli at Spice House Sound.
The penultimate number, “Medicine Man” bats cleanup and picks up where “Voodoo Guru” left off, humbly thumping with a smart piano loop that digs an ode to those who deliver what our vices desire. Bringing the short, potent EP into the station is the ever-vibey “Time Out of Mind”, a cheeky, if hidden, homage to A Funk Odyssey era Jamiroquai. One also may also sniff a whiff of Daft Punk circa Random Access Memories, with a dash of Depeche Mode for good measure. This dancefloor burner is certainly single material, and represents yet another interesting detour in the Scatterbrain path on the troubadour trail of Nik Greeley.
This latest EP is an introspective-yet-fun and funky foray into a groovy R&B vein, a soulful space that sounds at once contemporary and classic, all the while decidedly Nik Greeley to the core. The singer doesn’t discard his trademark styles of the past, instead choosing to find new arrangement approaches, catchier hooks, and colorful, future-funk textures, applying his vocal and artistic flexibility within this fresh topography. A revitalized version of a singer-songwriter you know and love, Scatterbrain will certainly rock the bells of fans of Tom Misch, Vulfpeck, Lawrence, Knower, and the like.
words: B.Getz – Nov.2023
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