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Kava Kava – Forwards – Rating: A

Submitted by on July 7, 2009 – 12:01 PMOne Comment
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Kava Kava1Kava Kava, a new band from Yorkshire, UK (not the coffee alternative), is a six-piece eclectic band that is taking the US by storm. Three of their songs have been released as part of the Xbox snowboarding game Stoked and some of their work has been licensed on several televisions programs including, John from Cincinnati, Dirt, and Weeds. The band has even had their songs featured in movies, including Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down.

With roots in psychedelic funk, Kava Kava uses that early work as a foundation to build a new fresh sound that mixes pop and club dance with rock, funk, and soul. Pat Fulgoni, the lead singer, has a versatile set of pipes that has made him a much-in-demand guest on many albums. He has collaborated on several albums released by Hospital Records and Subliminal Soup Records. The single “Beliefs” from Nu:Tones’s Back of Beyond album reached #17 on the singles chart in the UK and featured Fulgoni’s vocals.

It is Fulgoni’s voice that drives the new Kava Kava CD, Forwards, that was released digitally in late June this year and will be out on vinyl in late July. This ten-song album features two remixes and delivers an ample serving of rocked up and funked out music.  Fulgoni slides into a Southern rock meets the Doors vocal on “Everything” and a Tom Jones-infused George Thorogood on “Bank Job.” On the title cut, “Forwards,” Fulgoni is moodily soulful, selling the plaintive lyrics as if he’s lived them. It is clear Fulgoni is not only flexible but he’s inventive.

Vocals aside, Kava Kava pumps out great instrumentation that is equally risk-taking and innovative. For example, the aforementioned “Bank Job” is laced with spaced out techo, driving drums, and slick horns. “Forwards” is a rock-infused, bluesy number with synth strings and distorted guitar, while “NFA” offers up a percussion-enhanced moody mix of soulful pop and jazz that drifts into electronica. And, then there is “Don’t Stop the Music,” a twenty-first century disco tune with a deeper message that is served up with layers of techno and surprises.

Kava Kava2All of this musical goodness comes from the other Kava Kava band members. They are Matt Bond (guitar), Martin Chung (bass), Chris Corrigan (drums), and Steve Davies and Ian Bailey (horns).

The two remixes are interesting additions. Andrea Fiorino’s remix of “Don’t Stop the Music” add a funkier element to the techno parts of this song, layering Fulgoni’s vocals as if they were techno subtexts, and allowing Matt Bond’s guitar to come through. Fiorino does add extremely long intros and endings to the cut.  Jon Kennedy’s remix of “Tic,” the initial cut on the CD, turns the tune into a roots number, with his addition of piano and electronic elements that sound like old-fashioned gut-box guitar, yet the cut has a very modern, almost hip-hop feel.

My favorite cut on the whole album, though, is “Rise Above.” Serving up a message Bob Marley or  Michale Franti would be proud of, this song is wrapped up in funky techno but balanced with Fulgoni’s delivery and great background vocals. “Rise Above” suggests that “some people’s hatred is insecurity….building bridges could heal you/find the love.”

It is no wonder Kava Kava is in much demand, playing clubs and festivals in the US, Europe, and China. If you get a chance to catch them live, race to their next gig. Until then, check out their new album, Forwards, at iTunes or sample and download directly from www.myspace.com/kavakavamusic.

Beer Pairing:  New Belgium Brewing Company’s Fat Tire, a hoppy Belgian-type brew that has a broad palette of ingredients combined to produce a balanced but very young beer.