Monday, June 14, 2021

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New Music: I, Ced maps the funky zigs and...

New Music: I, Ced maps the funky zigs and zags of modern romance

On 'Interpretations,' the SoCal studio wiz brings in a roomful of friends and synthesized basslines.

Los Angeles artist I, Ced, who’s been a fixture on the session musician track since leaving St. Louis, Missouri in 2001 and arriving in SoCal, keeps his name and ability in great regard amid that city’s progressive soul community. Not an easy task. Within a certain domain, one could argue he’s actually the “worst kept secret,” opposite of what’s listed in his album press material and liner notes. Influential folks such as Shafiq Husayn and Dam-Funk work with him. Knowing what he does. Along with other creators and aficionados of modern soul music.

When you have a distinct acuity—covering production, studio mixing, keys, and vocals—your name circulates. The right people speak it. Jean Grae & Quelle Chris, Coultrane, Jimetta Rose, Myron & E., André Cymone, and a bunch of others, know exactly who he is. Some kinda connective tissue that will give your project that “IT” soul stamp.

Where his 2016 What Are We Looking For? captured the production essence of ’70s soul, Gamble and Huff Philadelphia International era, on his new Interpretations I, Ced documents the zig and zag of modern romance to a fusion of rhythm and blues, rap vocals, funk, disco, and synthesized percussion. This debut long-player for Los Angeles imprint MoFunk Records grinds, and clicks along, using hand-claps, four on the floor beats, and vocals engulfed in polyphonic choruses, these arrangements stretch out into carnivalesque wonder, at dream haze pace.

I, Ced’s association with MoFunk started when label boss, singer, and emcee XL Middleton (who has become a cornerstone since the long-running Los Angeles club night Funkmosphere ended) released a remix of I, Ced’s “Percu” single. Something fit. Soul-driven harmonics—in the vein of Donny Hathaway and vintage Stevie Wonder conjoined to bassline bump—made this sound collaboration slap with a bit more purpose, allocating sturdy context for the blunt lyrics and sped up Roland TR-808 drum machine blues.

Now, on Interpretations, Coultrain, Leon Sylvers IV, Erik Rico, Jimetta Rose, Zackey Force Funk, and Moniquea, all top-flight veterans in the LA progressive soul aggregate, move about songs with all-star acumen. Distilling cameos, contributing to the fabric, just showing up with all-star professionalism. Understanding this is I, Ced’s close-up.

On the uptempo banger “Call Me Up,” Ced makes a tuff bassline the centerpiece, adding Steve Arrington type lead vocals into the arrangement, fashioning squiggly synthy accents on the corners, reminiscent of classic Minneapolis Prince origins. Toss in Michael MacDonald foggy harmonic background runs, the ones featured on classic Steely Dan. With plucky, free-flowing passages, skirting outside the bass line breakdown mid-song, these sturdy, masterful grooves run the track all the way live. Through 12 neo-funk tracks, Ced drives that sleek and glossy indentation home.

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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