Greetings from Future Funk — Saint Ocean Waves Album Review
Electronic producer Saint Ocean reminds us that old songs can learn new tricks.
How many times is too many to listen to Anri’s “Remember Summer Days?” Released in 1983 as a bonus track on her album, Timely!!, the Japanese city pop song has become an indelible part of new wave music, frequently sampled and mixed into the pastel creations of future funk artists.
For a genre that embraces a whimsical and nostalgic ideation of society, Anri’s track is right at home. It exists in the never ending sunset that blinds future funk from an increasingly dystopian world. The sample’s use in future funk, dating back to at least 2014 when Macross 82–99 flipped it for his cut, is inescapable, with many artists drawing on its ready made instrumentals and vocals to deliver low effort “remixed” renditions.
For the first minute of Saint Ocean’s “Love,” the second track off his latest project, Waves, it’d be safe to assume he fell into a similar hole. Anri’s original song is layered neatly atop Ocean’s drum and bass kit, an apt imitation of the many samples that predate his own. But after that initial 60 seconds, Ocean’s true colors emerge, ones that paint his history as an electronic producer more vividly than his momentary stop over in the realm of future funk.
Released on July 24, Waves is a seven-track dive into future funk that sees some of the genre’s timeless samples reworked into new ways. Though Ocean, also known as Christian Valencia, takes a direct route to making accessible future funk, he regularly slips in ear opening nods that keep the album from getting stale.
“Love,” takes a nearly inaudible section of Anri’s track and permutates it into a beat fully distinguishable from other future funk tracks sampling the same piece. Likewise, “Where Have You Been” cranks the pace on the typically downtempo “If I Saw You Again” by failed soft rock group Pages. Rather than building around the sample’s synthwork, which is perfectly rubbery and loopable for future funk, Ocean crafts the track around the lyrics, injecting Richard Page’s vocals with a vivacity they lacked on the somberly sung original.
Regardless of how deep Saint Ocean had to dive to find the source material for Waves, his willingness to reinterpret well-worn tracks defines his style. The album strikes a good balance of songs led by vocals, synths and bass (“Title Track” embraces a tumbling bass line throughout), varying the sonics without fully departing from future funk.
Sometimes, it’s not clear just how seriously future funk is meant to be taken. The genre’s soundscapes are as equally known as its anime inspired music videos. Waves is a reminder that even with a limited musical genepool, old songs can yield new results. Producers just need to put on their thinking caps.
Stream or purchase Waves here.