AZTEC SUN – Set You Free
Album Review + First Listen
BAND ANNOUNCES SHOW AT VILLAIN AND SAINT ON SATURDAY, FEB. 18TH
By Randy Harris
Growing up, I always thought I was born in the wrong era. I dreamed of being able to experience the ‘60s and seeing all of my favorite classic rock artists live in their heyday. More recently, however, I have been provided with more and more evidence that I live in the greatest era of music. This time, it’s the Washington, DC-based 8-piece “funk with soul” band AZTEC SUN that has me captivated. The band also holds roots in jazz and world music, and they are set to release their debut EP, Set You Free, on December 9, 2016.
The title track begins the album on a high note, with lyrics and music that aptly compliment the message. A funky bridge, reminiscent of ‘70s soul, breaks down the tune, as a strong horns section leads us into a wailing guitar solo. As the song builds toward the outro, the harmonic background vocals singing “Set… you free, set you free” send our minds reeling, and the groundwork is immediately set for an epic string of music. “Swing” really starts to get groovy with some laidback jazz led by the horns. The vocals are filled with passion and emotion, but in a deceptively soft manner. Chords are fittingly placed and used sparsely at times for sort of a minimalistic feel.
Up next, it’s time to get rowdy! If there is ever a time to get up and dance, it’s when this next song is playing. “Parara” is a stroke of genius. The bass transitions from verse to chorus particularly stand up, going from funky pops to deep rolling grooves that shake the room. Funky syncopation in the bridge leads into a gorgeous sax solo over beautiful chords and Latin drums. This is the kind of tune that really makes us believe that the band literally put everything they’ve got into it. Just an absolute rager.
It’s hard to deny that the current times are fitting for “Revolution.” “We need a revolution,” says AZTEC SUN, laying out palpable imagery in the lyrics and pleading us to “open your eyes.” The music behind the words is just as motivating, building and swirling with the chorus until one final peak leaves us ready to take on the world. “Set You Free (Reprise)” brings the sexy, easygoing groove back. This is just straight up feel good music that makes our heads swim through the clouds. “The Struggle (Ebert Audio)” is really blues music at its core, although it is creatively hidden in a crafty mixture of laidback and Latin jazz. The lyrics tell descriptive stories of the hardship of the working man, while the music behind it helps to drive the message home. The dark verses intertwined with whirlwind choruses give off an apt portrayal of what it feels like to lose control of our lives.
Overall,AZTEC SUN has not only provided an incredible set of music with Set You Free, but they have also managed to present us with strong messages in a clear, concise manner. The lyrics are descriptive, powerful and easy to follow, while the music behind them consistently fits the mood and message flawlessly. This EP is simply an incredible record that represents everything that is so wonderful about music. Music should guide our emotions without controlling them. Music should present a message without forcing it upon us. Music should tell us stories. And most of all, music should fill us with hope, no matter how dark the message. Aztec Sun accomplishes all of those things in Set You Free, and I, for one, am already itching for more from this band.
Announces Show at Villain and Saint in Bethesda,MD
on Saturday, February 18, 2017
AZTEC SUN and SoulXchange will be performing live at Villain and Saint on Saturday, February 18th, 2017.
About AZTEC SUN:
Our music is a retro blend of 70’s funk and soul with heavy undertones of jazz, blues and afrofunk. In 2016, the Washington City Paper named AZTEC SUN the Best Local Original Band. We’ve had the pleasure of opening for national touring acts such as Burning Spear, the Suffers, Pimps of Joytime, Naughty Professor, Alanna Royale and Major and the Monbacks.
SoulXchange is comprised of four musicians with an extensive background in multiple genres of music. All with an intense passion for spreading positivity through music. Neil and Evan Durr (guitar/ bass) grew up in a musical household and from an early age dedicated themselves to their craft. Andrew Kuhens (guitar)also dedicated himself to music from an early age, working his way to Berklee College of music. With the addition of Joe Benny (drums) , the band completes it’s line up with a passionate musician with experience in musical engineering and touring with his project Secret Panda Society . These four members come together with common goals in mind. To entertain and excite people everywhere and to invoke a feeling of love and togetherness through the art of music.