Origin: Brooklyn, New York
Genre: Psychedelic World Funk
Label: Wonderwheel Recordings
Gitkin’s music exists somewhere between primal, rootsy memory and distant
exotic yearning — A dusty bordertown where the familiar blends imperceptibly into
the enchantingly foreign.
After a long and fruitful run as a bandleader with relentlessly touring party-rockers
Pimps Of Joytime and a Grammy-nominated country blues collaboration with
Cedric Burnside, multi-instrumentalist Brian J set out to “explore tonalities I’d
never messed with,” as he puts it. It was a release from “having to write lyrics or
involve my voice,” he notes, and so the (mostly) instrumental sound of Gitkin
came into being.
Reviews of Gitkin’s first LP grappled with descriptors, tagging it vaguely as
“cinematic” and comparing it favorably with Khruangbin. True, the music is largely
wordless, emotionally evocative, and guitar driven. But it possesses an alluring
alchemy all its own.
Gitkin’s first release, 2018’s well-received Five Star Motel, amply demonstrated
his ease with earthy funk and comfortably-cut rhythm. On his new full-length
release Safe Passage, the itinerant guitar slinger broadens his already rich
palette with melodies informed by Greek and Middle Eastern modalities, Peruvian
Chicha and Tuareg Saharan guitar styles. No gimmick, this juxtaposition of gut-
bucket blues and funk low-end with unexpectedly twisting lead phrases highlights
the intense flavors found in each savory ingredient.
Recorded at his home studio in New Orleans, Safe Passage showcases a new
batch of immediately engaging, repeatedly satisfying cuts, ranging from surf
exotica (“Cat Nip”) to raunchy roadhouse stompers (“Fools Gold” and “The Drive”)
to dreamy vocal cuts “Foot Steps” and “Hold On” to the floating finale of “Safe
Gitkin’s production radiates character and warmth, leaning on soft-focus vintage
mics, dubby spring reverbs and the quirks of an analog tape machine. Further
enhancing the intimate vibe are distinguished guests like Carol C (of Si*Sé), who
lends her striking voice to three tracks, including the strutting single “De La,”
veteran Chauncey Yearwood (congas) and New Orleans local Clifton “Spug”
Smith, who provides a sousaphone low-end on the cumbia-not-cumbia “Spug
Safe Passage will be released by Wonderwheel on September 18th, 2020 and
will be available on vinyl, CD and digitally.