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By: Robyn Rubinstein
Kraak & Smaak :: 03.31.07 :: Mighty :: San Francisco, CA
I'm a cynical, salty music snob with a compulsive dancing problem. There used to be a time when I could dance to anything with enough artificial assistance and have a fantastic time because it was "Sooo much fun." Don't get me wrong, I LOVE fun. A lot. Really. However, the inexorable process of aging has led me to two conclusions:
Kraak & Smack
1) Preserving functioning neurons is important.
2) An authentic music experience can be just as much fun, and is, in fact, often more fun than one spent with my eyes rolled back into my skull.
Lately, my quest has been to find bands that can move me physically and emotionally without artificial sweeteners. With some concerted effort, I've found more than a few, and the latest is called Kraak & Smaak. Yes, the irony is not lost on me.
Kraak & Smaak is a Dutch electro-funk band whose live performances bring a well-needed dose of soul to dance music. Their name derives from a Dutch proverb that has nothing to do with crack nor smack. The core members of the group are keyboard prodigy Oscar De Jong and DJs Wim Plug and Mark Kneppers. Their touring band includes Ro Krom on percussion and vocals, vocalist Rose Spearman, and bass guitarist Mark Baronner. Since their first gig in May of 2005, Kraak & Smaak has been gathering steam in Europe. BBC Online claims that their debut album, Boogie Angst, sounds like "a lost master from the Stax vault. It's that good."
That is lofty praise and while I'm not 100-percent sure their recorded effort deserves it, their live performance absolutely does. Their show at Mighty was an unerring dance party that had more substance and soul than anything I've seen of that ilk in a long time. The term 'organic' can sound pretentious when used to describe something other than produce but in this case it fits. The beats are syncopated without being monotonous or plagiarized. Their stage presence is extremely dynamic and engaged, with no sense of distance from their audience. Spearman's vocals are simultaneously fierce and gorgeous. There's little indication on their records of how huge her vocals are. It is easy to tell that De Jong is an extremely adept keyboardist who draws on a wide range of musical influences for his brand of funk. Drummer Krom plays with the electric enthusiasm of Animal from The Muppet Show. He and bassist Baronner form a potent, intuitive rhythm section.
Kraak & Smack
At one point, my friend turned to me and said, "If you don't like funk, I kind of think there is something wrong with you." Wise words. Kraak & Smaak have merged funk, soul and disco into an empirical groove that is fresh, fun and addictive even when you can focus both eyes clearly.
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