It’s soul music, baby, but not as we know it. The backbeat and the handclaps are still there and the horns still sound. The bass bumps, the organ screams and the guitars still twang, but the singer has left the room. Everything is shades of blue. This is soul music for the after hours. For the solitary dancers and the lonely hearts. The soundtrack to solitary headlights on a midnight highway. What to call it? Who cares! Can you dance to it? Just try not to. No one’s telling you to throw your hands up in the air, but no one would be surprised if you did. It’s dark here, so you can do your own thing.
Wooden Boy was recorded by The Cactus Channel — a ten-piece band from Melbourne, Australia — all born in the 90s and raised on the internet. Yet somehow, this astonishing follow up to last year’s rave-reviewed debut, Haptics, sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1970s, or possibly in the distant future. A timeless, placeless cinematic odyssey, Wooden Boy could have been an alternate soundtrack to Ghost Dog — if Lalo Schifrin and the Meters were collaborating on the RZA’s score. Or maybe Wooden Boy was what happened when Lars Von Trier got invited to direct an episode of Soul Train. What any of it may actually mean is left to the listener’s imagination.
Funk aficionados will hear shades of New York on this record, echoes of El Michel’s taking on Wu Tang, the influence of Budos and Menehan et al. But this is the Generation Z version; both more tempestuous and more introverted. Recorded analog in the digital era, presented faceless in the celebrity era, inexplicably ambiguous in the soundbite era, is this the album the world needs right now? Undoubtedly yes. In a world where the NSA can read the text message that dumped you, what does a person need more than sad soul music from the future? Wooden Boy, baby, Wooden Boy.