This Saturday at APT, the gents of Truth And Soul records take a break from their gigs as funk revivalists and Shaolin sidemen to spin some deep collection selections while guesting at the Bumpshop party. You might remember checking Truth And Soul in Gen F last summer, but just in case, we've handily reprinted it in webternet format for you after the jump.
Truth & Soul sand off the edges
By Fred Schmalz
“Where did the ballad go?” asks Leon “El” Michels, somewhat rhetorically, while shuffling through a stack of 45s for a copy of Lee Fields and the Expressions’ single “Honey Dove”, released on his Truth & Soul label. “I mean, what happened to the love?” Michels isn’t looking for a copy of the record any more, but wondering why smooth, shimmering soul has such a low profile in today’s music scene.
Truth & Soul surfaced a couple years back, after Soul Fire Records founder Phillip Lehman took the Endless Summer route to beach retirement, bequeathing an analog recording studio, a back catalogue and enough equipment to hock for a few months’ rent to Michels and his partner Jeff Silverman. Michels was twenty years old at the time, but he had a history with Soul Fire—his band, the Mighty Imperials, served as the label’s house band.
The Mighty Imperials were young enough to be molded to fit Soul Fire’s aesthetic, which emphasized an intentionally rough, backward-looking, heavy, heavy funk. But when the label’s name changed, the sound did too; before you drop T&S into the “same shit, new day, ersatz retro-funk” category, pick up a copy of El Michel’s Affair’s 2004 single “Detroit Twice” (on Daptone’s Misty label). With intricate horn harmonies and a one vocal howl that sticks in your head long after it fades, the song is the work of a band interested in realizing smoothness, not faking rawness.
Based out of a Williamsburg studio, Truth & Soul is as much a musicians’ collective as it is a record label—a small core of musicians that peoples the label’s several bands. Michels breaks it down: “All the tracks are me, Nick Movshon, Jeff Silverman and Quincy Bright. Sometimes we go into a session with a sound or a record in mind but usually the song comes out of fucking around and listening to records.”
In August, El Michel’s Affair will release Sounding Out The City, the label’s first long player. Its spare, less-is-more instrumental beats are so cipher-friendly they’re likely to bring hip-hop artists calling. “We didn’t really plan to make an album,” Michels says. “Nick and I just started recording stuff in twelve hour sessions in my parents’ basement.”
With a new samba single by Bronx River Parkway in the works as well, Truth & Soul will have little trouble convincing anyone that its sound is far from the funk. After all, they’re looking to bring the love back. How? “We just met one of the Crystals in an elevator,” El Michaels says. “She still sounds 16 years old. We’re bringing her in.”