Jan Kincaid and Dawn Joseph met during their work with The Brand New Heavies. Jan, founder of TBNH, also their producer, singer, drummer, and songwriter, met Dawn when she started to work with the group in 2013. They both clicked from the start and wrote so many songs that they finally left the group and started their own project, MF Robots, with the first release in 2018 called “Music For Robots”. The name is a sort of allusion to the generic, formulaic music of the day. They want to create danceable, groovy songs, brass-heavy, with real vocals and actual songs instead of too many little snippets. Well, I guess they have achieved their goal, especially with their second album “Break The Wall”, now finally out on a luscious 3-LP set.
A lot of the songs remind me of the golden days of soul music of the early 80s. In fact, pieces like “Good People” sound like 80s favorite High Fashion are back in style, combined with Chic-like backing vocals. Great funky soul groove and sumptuous vocals by Dawn and a swell brass section are woven together to create one of the highlights of the set. Or maybe that’s the equally sexy groover “Gold”, with its thumping, percussive beat, gorgeous drum work, and an irresistible “everything’s-gonna-be-alright” mood with Jan and Dawn exchanging superb vocals.
This feelgood factor continues on optimistic dancers like “Make Me Happy” or the breakbeats and surging “la-la” vocals on the uber catchy “Happy Song”, which also features a great synth solo by Jan. Both probably come closest to a Brand New Heavies sound on the album opener “Change”, but that’s where the comparisons already end. I really like the driving and chugging energy of “Shine” and “Crazy Life”, the thick vocal arrangement once again harking back to the early 80s. There are also a few bluesy and funky midtempo gems like “Brand New Day” (with real handclaps!) and “You”. A pretty consistent affair throughout. “Birthdays” sounds like an offshoot from Chic’s underrated 1982 LP “Tongue In Chic”. Kudos to pianist and keyboardist Alex Montaque, bassists Naz Adamson and Gail Ann Dorsey, and the rest of the gang for effortlessly bringing together soul, funk, jazz, and pop.
The album, full of uplifting and energizing tunes, thankfully staying true to rhythm and harmonies we all came to adore in the late 70s and early 80s, ends with another highlight, easily transporting those classic arrangements and rhythm sections into 2022: “Make The Call” grows with each listen. As do most of the other tracks on offer. “Break The Wall” now finally available on vinyl!