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Retro Modern: Jamiroquai’s ‘Automaton’

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Where classic and contemporary music intersect

Retro Modern “Modern” Pick: Jamiroquai’s “Automaton” (single)

Introduction: Jamiroquai is a modern funk and dance music band fronted by British singer, songwriter, producer, and performer Jason Kay.

The band rose to prominence with their debut Emergency on Planet Earth (1993, Epic / Sony) as one of the leaders of the acid jazz movement. Jamiroquai secured worldwide success from the 1990s onward with singles such as “Space Cowboy,” “Canned Heat,” “Little L,” “Seven Days in Sunny June” and their signature hit, “Virtual Insanity.” The original incarnation of Jamiroquai eventually gave way to a shifting roster of accomplished studio-to-live session musicians that orbited the charismatic frontman Kay, the lone original member to remain.

In all, Jamiroquai has recorded seven albums. Automaton is their eighth LP and is led by the single of the same name.

Synopsis: “Automaton,” the first single from Jamiroquai’s forthcoming LP of the same name, closes the door on the second largest gap between projects for the U.K. funk / dance outfit piloted by the enigmatic frontman, Jason Kay. Mentioned gaps had been the product of Kay’s need to creatively recharge, keeping their athletic brand of equally nostalgic and futuristic R&B fresh.

Bursting out of the British acid jazz movement, Jamiroquai quickly built up broader artistic muscle mass with intelligent, cutting edge dance music fueled by authentic disco rhythms.

But, the cultural pulse of R&B and dance, especially within the eye of the mainstream storm, was constantly changing. By the time Jamiroquai’s last LP Rock Dust Light Star (2010, Universal / Mercury) arrived, the pioneers of one of the most memorable post-modern disco revivals found themselves supplanted by fresh faces within that realm.

Hosted by the Virgin / EMI label, “Automaton” gives voice to the fact that Jamiroquai was, and still is, a prominent fixture in classic and contemporary dance and funk music ― something forgotten in a post-Random Access Memories (2013, Daft Life / Columbia) world. The song’s chilly, stuttering staccato beat hypnotizes the listener before dropping into the layered, computerized chorus. The aural texture recalls the majestic peaks of past tech-leaning steppers, notably “Supersonic” and “Feels Just Like It Should.”

Jason Kay, circa 2017

Lyrically, the track balances escape with caution, aware of our society’s current dependency (or addiction) to technology and social media: “I put my faith in a digital world / Where they’ve given me / Eyes without a face / I stare at the moon on silver nights / Remind myself I am someone / My soul is null and void tonight / I’m automaton!” Jamiroquai’s warning is expounded upon further in the compelling video clip directed by Charlie Lightening; Kay wanders around and adjusts to a (possibly) post-apocalyptic world, his trademark headdress gadgetized for the occasion.

Produced and written by Kay and current band keyboardist Matt Johnson, “Automaton” promises that the subsequent long player will be another solid, inventive entry from Jamiroquai.


“Automaton” available on Jamiroquai’s forthcoming LP Automaton | Preorder via Amazon

More information on Jamiroquai: Official Site | All Music Guide

Photo credit: Billboard.com/Charlie Lightening

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About Quentin Harrison

With a decade of experience, Quentin Harrison remains one of the most unique voices in the field of popular music critique. His work has been featured in numerous CD reissues and online outlets, including his now retired website, The QH Blend. The second book in his “Record Redux” series, “Record Redux: Carly Simon,” will be available in April 2017. His first book, “Record Redux: Spice Girls,” released in July 2016, is the definitive critical guide to the music of the U.K. quintet.