Chicago’s Bumpus drops a new EP on April 6. It’s called Way Down Deep and features a collection of tunes bubbling with carbonated funk, smooth soul, and refined R&B.
Led by James Johnston, who was putting together new songs for a project called Dance Floor Plans, Bumpus changed direction when Johnston fell victim to vocal chord polyps. A new vocalist, Tina M. Powell, surfaced to front Bumpus with nuclear-powered vocals. Bumpus and Howell strut their supercharged energy on Way Down Deep.
The EP opens with “Already Mine,” a blazing, funky tune riding chuffing guitars, horns, and snapping percussion. Velvety harmonies give way to Howell’s rasping, growling flamethrower of a voice, as she lights up the atmosphere with grinding tones.
“Way Down Deep Pt. 1” offers a sizzling jazz-flavored funk number, with glistening vocal harmonies complementing Howell’s potent vocals. The brass in this tune really hits the sweet spot, braying out bright colors. “Way Down Deep Pt. 2” assumes a different texture and flavor, flowing with a smooth jazz/R&B ambience that’s cool and laid-back. The tune ripples with expansive silky tones.
The intro to “Anything” reminds me of Hall & Oates, with its funky-lite thrumming pulse. Howell’s vocals take on a softer vibe, giving the tune a deft, stylish glow. This might be my favorite track on the EP because of its restrained harmonic discharge, along with a delicious sax solo that casts a sonic spell.
“Step Sure” rides a funky groove trembling with visible dynamism. Howell’s scorching tones exploit the music for all it’s worth. And the horns provide sizzling accents atop the chuffing guitars, imbuing the tune with layers of bright hues and metallic riffs.
Way Down Deep delivers rough and ready funk-flavored music that hits home with a wallop. The cogent rhythms are guaranteed to get hips twitching, while Howell’s searing tones create a delectable aural sensation dripping with heat.