Review: Future Brown makes art music for dirty dancing

On Saturday night, the electronic music supergroup Future Brown played an after-party for the L.A. Art Book Fair at Jewel’s Catch One, the African American lesbian dance club in Mid-City. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate launch-off gig for the group, and for their uncategorizable, globe-trotting mix of hip-hop, noise and experimental new music.

On one hand, the group is aiming high and deconstructing a world of influences into a sound that already feels new. On the other, it’s still party music aimed straight at the hips of everyone who hears it.

The quartet is a collaboration among members of the L.A. production duo Nguzunguzu, avant-garde composer Fatima al Qadiri and Lit City Trax label owner J-Cush. Each member has earned accolades on his or her own terms in experimental music circles and on the after-hours club circuit. But Future Brown’s forthcoming debut LP on Warp (out Feb. 24) is an even rarer feat -- a big-group project far more accessible, more immediate and potentially even more commercial than their solo careers have hinted at.

Tracks such as their debut single “Wanna Party” (which features the fast-ascending Chicago rapper Tink) and “Talkin Bandz” could absolutely compete on mainstream rap radio. Their trap-spattered 808 drum lines and druggy, deep-echoing samples would fit right in at an Atlanta strip club or on a Zaytoven beat tape. But their tracks are full of little details that belie a high-art pedigree -- ultra-fine reverb edits and an insistence on making every synth and sample feel novel and untraceable.

Fortunately, they can also be funny and unpretentious about their aesthetic. Their video for “Vernaculo” may have been commissioned by the Perez Art Museum Miami, but the clip looks like a surrealist Japanese makeup commercial. For a series at the Museum of Modern Art, they performed while accompanied by a choreographed basketball team running practice drills.


Tweaks like that are reminders that music like this is useless if it doesn’t have physicality, a base note of sex and sweat to contrast artier ambitions. In the way that Kanye found space to rap around Arca’s serrated electronic sounds, it’s easy to imagine Future Brown someday teaming with a rapper like (naturally) Future on a track aimed right at Power 106.

But in the meantime, the group has one of the most promising early entries of 2015 on its hands. It belongs both in art galleries and lesbian dance clubs, and it will likely take them much, much farther than that.

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