Mike Katz built the Havery Sutherland marquis from a “lounge-room disco burners” type of chi. Music that carried the reward of being present in the moment. Shy disco, that had a bit of nostalgic daydreaming built in. You could fantasize about a David Mancuso connection, a by-invitation-only feel. Confidential, like a PIN number.
Harvey Sutherland a.k.a. Mike Katz, an Australian DJ and electronic music producer, has chosen to swerve directly, straight ahead, into the funk from now on. Some of it catchy pop—like the three-minute-and-change version that constantly feeds a massive amount of Spotify earbuds their forever genreless playlist pollen. Other bits, the sweaty kind. Peak David Byrne, big-white-suit style. And the remainder, wonky contemporary tech meets house tracks—moves we had no idea Mr. Katz knew about. Some of the most compelling hybrids on the planet—next to magic mushroom strains.
On his broad-stroke debut album Boy, Melbourne-raised musician Sutherland has stumbled, noodled, or politely locked on the GPS coordinates for the type of funk that reaches, how can we say, a grander constitution of enthusiasts than before. I’m not saying the lane widening is a bad thing. But it’s definitely a different thing—a couple of steps away from the loft-heads he courted for a decade. While the pivot has been referred to as “hypermodern” in some articles and press releases from the artist, accessible seems a better fit.
Boy, with its herky-jerky energy and in-the-pocket pop, is a departure from Sutherland’s salad days arrangements, which created a space for loft-jazz purists, disco buffs, and contemporary house/electronic music fans to meet. Mike Katz made his impact early in 2013 with a string of successful 12-inch records released under his alias. Blending a diverse range of crate-digging influences, his initial singles were quickly championed by international tastemakers Gilles Peterson, Jamie xx, Disclosure, The Blessed Madonna and Pete Tong. Sutherland, who directed an east coast Australian tour with an 11-piece band in support of New York Boogie icon Leroy Burgess and constructed a cosmic broken-beat arrangement with Nubya Garcia, both in 2018, rose to international prominence by carving out a niche in Australia’s bubbling electronic underground.
Sutherland’s full potential gets unlocked by Boy, which is far more than just one thing. Sure, the cutesy krautrock arrangement of ringtone melodies on the opener “Jouissance” can make waves, and the boogie-jazz groover “Age Of Acceleration” can slowly heat up the dancefloor, but, c’mon. You already know what it is. Sutherland fonks, gets loose in a whole new way on “Feeling of Love,” the Dâm-Funk collaboration, a message of unity at a time when this country desperately needs it. Dâm, who arranges the four-minute and change earworm, showcasing all of his signature moves—keytar solos, the message of positivity, rubbery type hooks—makes this funk pop. Without any reductions.
The album then opens up like a window, casting a breeze and some sun on that lazy dancefloor, causing it to move in a certain way. The standout instrumental “Michael Was Right About You” follows, putting our senses to the test with its two-stepping groove, trademark Rhodes, 4/4 pluck, gurgle bassline, and easy-peasy disco stroll. With the drizzly closer “Time Is On My Side,” Katz returns to those private, heady disco moments of the past with a talky melody and sunset bassline
Sutherland tests the waters with the breakbeat goodness of “Slackers,” a keyboard highlight that packs motorik concept arrangement into that older era Floating Points type melody, just a little sped up. Katz, who’s been around for a while, is able to Frankenstein the two into a slip-and-slide jam worthy of repeat listens and vinyl 12-inch pressings. Sutherland’s Boy gets a breath of fresh air thanks to those different sounding jawns, the ones with the dank vibe, his so-called “neurotic funk,” and those private disco moves.
Label: House Anxiety
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to Treble since 2018. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in The Wire, 48 Hills, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK and Drowned In Sound.