Freak Funk: On XL Middleton’s ‘Things Are Happening’

Evan Gabriel breaks down the new EP from XL Middleton.
By    November 2, 2017

xl

Evan Gabriel is Rick James, bitch.

As one of Los Angeles’ best modern funk producers, XL Middleton is no novice when it comes to transforming the unsavory into something alluring. His latest record, Things Are Happening, is a uniquely Southern California sojourn, which sticks to Middleton’s Funk ethos while digging into more earnest writing themes, like being an introvert in a socially demanding industry.

Middleton maintains his use of rowdy drums and thumping bass lines.The album’s opener, “Too Many Freaks,” is uptempo and grandiose, a track that sounds like it could have been written for Rick James. The leads wiggle and the snares crunch like hydraulics crashing on asphalt. While it plays like a party track, the lyrics prod at something more painful, more covered up, like the 20/20 hindsight of considering engagement following a weekend fling. “Enjoy the Ride” and “Purple Sheets” are two standout tracks that feel reminiscent of 2015’s Tap Water. My personal favorite is the groove-heavy instrumental track, “Ice Level.”

Middleton himself produces, writes, and sings everything on the tracks. In sticking to the theme of writing your own stories, this 10-track project comes pretty light on features. Fellow Funk maestro Zackey Force Funk sits shotgun on “Paradise of Pavement,” an ode to living in a city of car culture while owning a loud sound system. This is music designed for winding through Los Angeles streets on 90 degree Autumn days. On “Better Friend,” Middleton brings along MoFunk Records’ Moniquea for the chorus.

The album art speaks to the real stresses that are inevitable when the ground seems to start shattering from all sides. Despite the worries that begin to keep you up at night, invading perhaps the last frontier of comfort, Things Are Happening is a reminder to tell your own stories, and to choose happiness despite what’s around you. You can still get tickets to catch XL Middeton this Saturday at The Regent for The Modern Funk Fest DJ Summit, hosted by Zackey Force Funk.