Madboy/Mink, the funk duo from Mumbai, took many music lovers by surprise with the release of their first EP, All Ball. They tinkered with sounds, passing around blunts of dub, indie-electronic, electro-swing and breathy vocals until the entire circle was bone-stoned and intrigued by the possibilities.
Their quirky sound with all its retro-junkyism might only be slightly displaced from their previous album, but is certainly more ambitious. Listening to any one of the tracks from Madboy/Mink’s new album Union Farm on repeat for more than twenty minutes will probably have the same effect as listening to the album in its entirety. It may sound like criticism, but it’s not.
Armed with Imaad Shah’s high-octane, disco cool guitar riffs and Saba Azad’s potent vocal arrangements, Madboy/Mink proves that electro-pop looks good on them. Although Union Farm is rooted in funk, the beats crawl into slightly experimental territory with a cauldron of ragtime cabaret, new wave and ’80s-inspired disco.
The foundation of the duo’s sound is their ability to write good enough tunes to justify their shtick — and if anyone has ever watched them perform live, they will realise that the shtick is as much of a selling point as the album itself. The tracks move at a steady pace with delicious rhythms like the whirring beats of Fire In The Street and the scrambled marching drums of Powders.
Fire In The Street, the first track on the album, finds Mink tampering with volume and heavy reverb in the midst of Madboy’s rippling guitar lines and gravelly synthesizers that poke you in the side. Azad’s voice, despite the fuzz, is warm and refined, urging the listener to get lost in the dizzying beat. The guitar-powered verse slides right into the soaring chorus that immediately becomes the one of most catchiest songs the duo has written.
The next noteworthy stop is Sharaabi. Although not as organic as Azad’s alcohol-fuelled number from Nautanki Saala, it is reminiscent of Bollywood’s erstwhile disco era. Azad’s celestial voice is cocooned by Shah’s wily synths that rise and fall in a smooth, wave-like motion. To the duo’s credit, this is one of those tracks that makes a lot more sense live, in the haze of hippy-dippy laser lights and handclaps.
Musically, there aren’t many surprises. Nearly every track features clean disco drums, pop-synth arrangements and somewhat psychedelic guitar riffs, with an added bonus of foot-tapping beats in the middle of all that Saturday Night Fever — but Madboy/Mink’s sound shines through. Although not perfect, Union Farm is a defining moment not only for the artists, but also for this specific style of music that is seeing a major revival. If I don’t listen to Union Farm again, I will at least remember how likable it was the first time I heard it — a respectable dance record with a confident, unmistakable style.