“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.”
When I first began collaborating with Stephen Fleg the summer of 08, we first had to have a very important meeting. In his basement, flooded with thousands of records, I could barely find a patch of carpet to take my next step. In this vinyl lair, the first order of business concerned our philosophies.
Some people just want to be good, they want to be famous, they want a full nights sleep. He tells me before his eyes go wide and I get kinda nervous, I want greatness. I had to stop and think hard about what kind of life I wanted. Monk and Mingus look down on us from the wall.
You can’t fake pain, he says, puts on an old blues 7″. The throaty guitar warbles to life and a deep black voice takes over room. The way I remember, it was as if the lamp light was slowly sapped to a dim glow by this voice. When the song finished we both sat there, quiet and in awe.
This awe is the starting point for artists like Fleg. From here you have to build on what came before you, something many experimental artists neglect.
Over the course of the next few years, Fleg and I won grants and collaborated on three theater shows. All the while, Fleg was working on his own first release. A sound that he could call his own. During our midnight rehearsals I’d always wonder what I would walk in on coming down the basement steps. He was always hunched over doing something weird.
I’d find him playing an acoustic-electric kalimba; mic’ing up a broken organ of some sort so he could capture the whirring sound it made starting up or pitch shifting his voice on an antique Casio.
Its been over a thousand nights in the making but today I was finally able to buy his debut, The Machinery of Funk and it all makes sense now. Whatever was conceived from an old spare blues song has flourished into a vibrant sonic realm.
Listen to it. Can’t you hear the chirping keys in the upper reaches? The melded synths holding together a canopy? The fluttering organ, rhodes in middle, korg beneathe that and deeper still, the micro-korg in the sub-bass?
In the tradition of Flying Lotus and Portishead, or is it Chuck Brown and Miles Davis? –How do we talk about music like this? Do we have to use creative language?
The Machinery of Funk is a lush and complex album, both meditative and kinetic. An old piece of equipment rediscovered in 2012, TMF “clicks” on at 0:00. You hear this rusty generator lurch and wake before the drums drop. What follows is a series of tightly wound gyres, each spinning into the next.
Candace Jackson’s voice is coated in honey on How High Do Bees Fly? and Richard Trent brings magic to Pointillism in the Sun and validates my opinion that this album should be considered sci-fi fantasy in the track, Rocket.
If you’re reading this and you already know Stephen as DJ Fleg, one of the leading break dance battle DJ’s in the country, part of the Lions of Zion bboy crew or as the DJ Fleg that founded 4 Hours of Funk, nominated best dance night in Baltimore or simply as Fleg, the weirdo in the basement. Its time for you to meet Werewolf Torso.
Buy Machinery of Funk, let it fade and begin.