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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"After the Storm" is a dreamy combo of neo soul and P-Funk

Kali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator provide the former feeling, while the latter comes from the space bassist, Bootsy Collins himself.


Yesterday, I talked about a summer 2021 release that took me back to my childhood in Keane's "Dirt." Through the combination of simply who the performers were and how their sound reminded me of their earlier hits, I remembered what it was like when I first came to know of their music. Today's post follows somewhat of a similar line, but even though the track is a couple years older than "Dirt" — hey, I guess that's sort of a pun — it makes me think of a more recent time period.


I mentioned last week in my "King Kunta" post that I could go for days just listening to Parliament-Funkadelic. While I heard their songs a bit when I was younger, I really learned to appreciate their sound and their zaniness while I was in high school. George Clinton et al inhabit a world of their own, but they've also spread their influence the world over. The past four decades of funk and hip hop, for example, owe a great deal to the ground P-Funk broke.


Of all the members of the P-Funk collective, bassist Bootsy Collins has spread his wings the most. Along with his own awesomely named outfit, Bootsy's Rubber Band, he's dabbled in sonic spheres including metal (with Praxis, an out-of-this-world experimental rock group led by Bill Laswell) and electronic dance (see Dee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" and Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice"), all while bringing his signature bass sound and whimsy. Just last year, he collaborated with Silk Sonic on their first record, featuring on their album's intro as well as "After Last Night." Today, though, I'm pointing my lens toward 2018, when he applied his talents to a collaboration with up-and-coming singer Kali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator. The downtempo "After the Storm" combines 2010s neo soul with P-funk, resulting in a timeless number that's coolly hopeful.

Bootsy's influence is so apparent throughout any track on which he works, which makes it all the more fitting that he gets the spotlight for the first 28 seconds of "After the Storm." Firstly, there's his dreamy, softly reverberating spoken delivery. Whether it's the center of attention or a backing figure, it's an underrated part of his musical oeuvre, and it adds to the trance-like feeling a lot of his material gives off. Matthew Tavares' synth work and Leland Whitty's guitar playing certainly contribute to this feeling. (Also worth noting is his lyric of "look both ways before you cross my mind," a nod to both Tyler, the Creator and Kali Uchis' previous collaboration, "See You Again" from Tyler's album Flower Boy (2017), as well as Kendrick Lamar's "Wesley's Theory" from To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), which features Tyler alongside Thundercat and P-Funk boss George Clinton.)


Then, of course, there's Bootsy's iconic bass playing. Especially on slower jams like this song, he loves circling around the root of chords with a bass line that gives the track a real sense of motion. He also adds a touch of chromaticism to bridge notes in the key, something that adds an unexpected amount of color to a more pop-like tune when it comes from the bass. In popular music, there's so much emphasis on the lowest note playing, particularly when it's separated from the other notes like most bass playing is. Whenever there's a note change, it leads to a momentary reconfiguration of the piece's harmony; when the note being played is outside the key altogether, it becomes particularly noticeable. Bootsy also adds just a touch of slapping to his bass line, which I really appreciate — it's so easy to go overboard with slap bass (and many players of the past couple generations do), but Bootsy makes tasteful use of it.


Of course, this song isn't mainly credited to Bootsy — it's a Kali Uchis track, and she adds plenty to it, so I ought to dive into her work. The combination of her smooth voice and the effects producers BadBadNotGood put on it contribute to the dream-like feeling I was already getting from Bootsy's work. The high vocal harmony is often in parallel fifths, something that's a no-go in classical fare but here adds a thickness to the melody that helps it cut through on the high end. When combined with the instrumental, it all gives me the feeling of 60s and 70s psychedelic soul, like something Roy Ayers would love to play live. (Please tell me you know Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine.")


Uchis' vocals fit the song's easygoing feeling through their encouragement. "After the Storm" speaks to people being able to battle through difficult times and get to the other side. I hear the instrumental behind her lyrics like "No one's gonna save you now / So you better save yourself" as something that's meant to calm the song's subject, getting them ready to face whatever they're going through. They've got to work through it on their own to see the literal fruits of their labor, as "after the storm's when the flowers bloom." I love that use of the title, because it just matches the psychedelic, timeless feeling the rest of the song gives off. Tyler, the Creator's verse takes a bit of a jaunt into more personal feelings, but the confidence his lines exude sound to me like an indication that Uchis' encouragement is working.


There's so much more I could say about this track but there's also a point at which, as a music writer, you've just got to let the piece speak for itself. I especially want to make that the case when it comes to a musician whose work is so distinctive like Bootsy Collins, even in a featured role. I'll leave you with my thought that "After the Storm" is timeless because of the influence P-Funk has had on the decades of music that followed its genesis.

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