Ghost Funk Orchestra exist in a space between the stylized funk of Pacific retro-soul and the accessible weirdness of mid-century jazz-pop. They evoke a time when Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 scored sunken living rooms and ’90s college radio station libraries alike. Theirs is a sound with cool built-in; their 2019 album A Song for Paul imagined a timeline where Stereolab and David Axelrod released records on Daptone, all united by a timeless, badass strut. That album’s first song was titled “Walk Like a Motherfucker,” and it walked that very walk.
The group’s follow-up, An Ode to Escapism, only delves deeper into the “Orchestra” part of the group’s name, each soulful track that much more cinematic, each funk pulse a foundation for a widescreen delivery of strings and horns that aims for something grander than groove itself. The groove is still there, naturally, but it’s the backbone rather than the focus. And like any good orchestra, GFO deliver what amounts to an extended symphonic groove suite—each piece seamlessly blending with the next, effortlessly easing from one psychedelic flight of fancy into another. The BPMs vary slightly, the arrangements shift, but the vibe is a constant one.
There are highlights here, however—lots of them. “Little Bird” twinkles with the warm glow of a Rhodes keyboard and shimmering guitar licks, “Step Back (Wild Child)” is a slightly intoxicated chillout headphone exercise, “Fuzzy Logic” is a theme in search of a ’70s detective serial, and “King of Misdirection” is the most maximalist funk the group has in their bag of tricks. For all its standouts, however, An Ode to Escapism is best experienced as a continuous whole, a stylish soundtrack for a coming winter spent indoors. The situation might not be ideal, but in the spirit of the album’s title, it’s an illusion worth savoring.
Label: Karma Chief
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.