By JENNIFER KELLY
Modern Streets is a curious amalgamation of low-tech electronics and high style classic soul. Made, reportedly, with iPhone apps, its buzzing, squawking beats feel woozy and pared back, like a video game soundtrack running on in the background. Yet over these minimalist cadences, the auteur Steve Spacek sings in a transcendent, fluttery falsetto that recalls psychedelic Marvin Gaye or tripped-out Curtis Mayfield.
Steve Spacek is one-half of Africa Hitech, and a one-time collaborator with hip hop visionary J. Dilla. Those are futuristic touchstones, and Modern Streets certainly has a technological sheen. Yet it’s also retro, in its way, repurposing discarded electronics for sleek soul revivalism. “Modern Streets” twitches with unease, pulses with skittery tetchiness, yet soothes with lush, whispery vocals. A recording of Spacek’s kid, kicks off “Gotta Get Some Music On” a playful touch in an album that dips freely into past and future. “If You Are My Chalice” stutter-steps on a knife-edge of tension, yet sports the most beautifully fluid falsetto of the disc. It feels as lush as classic Earth Wind and Fire, as uneasy as the most cerebral electronic dubstep.
Modern Streets brings the eerie emotional heft of psychedelic soul into the age of the personal electronic device, working on a small scale towards mind-expanding ends. Nicely done.
DOWNLOAD: “If You Are My Chalice”, “’Alone in Da Sun” .