Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Vampire Weekend, Shmampire Shmeekend. When it comes to white dudes appropriating African sounds for white audiences in a tasteful way, leave it to Minotaurs. The brainchild of seasoned session man Nathan Lawr (Royal City, Fembots, and Feist), this Ontarian supergroup sees guests from Holy Fuck, Rheostatics, and Constantines, among others, weave indie sensibilities into Fela Kuti–inspired jams in a way that doesn’t reek of over-privileged cultural imperialism.
Although Lawr’s past collaborations and solo projects haven’t strayed far past the folk rock protocol, The Thing, his latest offering under the Minotaurs moniker, is full of funky Afrobeat rhythms rich in soul and ass-shakeability. Opener “Caught In The Light” sets the tone with staccato beats, a snaky bassline, and jazzy saxes, but the song takes an unexpected turn when Lawr chimes in with his brooding, Thom Yorke–esque vocals. The rest of the record follows suit, departing from the by-the-numbers Afrobeat formula and meandering into different melodic directions; “Get Down” drapes an authoritative reggae groove over what’s essentially a folk-pop skeleton, while the title track starts as a seductive guitar and marimba–driven trip-hop tune before segueing into a mesmerizing sea of horns.
Despite managing to cram elements as disparate as Appalachian music (“Runaway Train”) and spooky Timber Timbre–like blues (“Crystal Cave”) into the Afrobeat template, The Thing flows seamlessly throughout its entire running time, never sounding disjointed. Mixed by Howie Beck and engineered by the Constantines’ Will Kidman and ex-Rheostatic Don Kerr, the disc maintains a consistent aura that’s both unflappable and foreboding. Lawr gets us off our asses with his contagiously danceable African rhythms, but he also reminds us things aren’t all hunky-dory with his ominous croons and socio-politically–tinged lyrics (“This world, it stands on hollow legs”). And he does it all without having to dress like an Oxford don.