Island Time (Fat Beats)
APPEARANCES EH? DANGER DANGER Will Robinson/Joel Sarakula. But maybe not for the reason you’re thinking.
Bung a tuxedo on an ordinary looking bloke and all of a sudden not only does he act a little better but others start seeing him as a bit smarter, a bit sharper, a bit more sophisticated. (Fellow ordinary blokes of the world, amirite or amirite?)
Put a laidback dance rhythm, maybe with a silky backing vocalist or two as well, on an otherwise ordinary song and singer, and suddenly not only does it sound like gentleman’s choice on the floor but listeners start seeing it, and said singer, as a bit smarter, a bit sharper, a bit more sophisticated.
It’s all bullshit of course, a veneer, but so what if it works? And it works. (Mother’s Day album crooners and coconut bar cruisers of the world, amirite or amirite?)
Well, it’s a problem if you start assuming that just because a dude’s in a tux or a song is the musical equivalent of an island cocktail (sleek, lightly sugared, poised to refresh) that it must be just veneer, and therefore insubstantial. If that’s what you think when you hear Island Time, you’ll not only be selling Joel Sarakula short, you’ll run the risk of depriving yourself of a delightful time.
While he’s not a tux-wearer – loose linen is probably more his style; with loafers rather than wingtips – the Europe-based Australian has made his name with very satisfying reimaginings of ‘70s satin pop, LA-cruising sophisto-rock and nightclub grooves that lean more discotheque than disco tech. Here, he further refines his territory to something that soundtracks lightly steamy nights in natural fibres, that are accompanied by tall glasses with ice, that are a little less yacht rock and a little more on-shore adventuring.
Or adventures at two distinct times of the day.
The title track, which arrives with four songs of the 10 left, sees Sarakula’s upper register reaching out and the light reggae rhythm pulling you in, before offering up a guitar solo that plays like a shot of slightly tart grapefruit in your rum drink; Dinosaur is the smooth-as-cream ending that might seduce you with more than the “pink champagne on ice” referred to in its regret-filled reminiscence, and while Truth shimmies with easy sensuality, it feels more like an easing down into Dream Life, a song that sways like a hammock brushed by a breeze, the synth line dappled sunshine from a Stevie Wonder ballad.
Before this though, Island Time nudges you away from sand and towards a room with hot upright rather than warm supine bodies. Nothing here ever breaks into anything as unseemly as a sweat, but there’s some sheen.
Sun Goes Down vamps in on keyboards and the voices that lift you, before you settle into a groove that asks only that your shoulders keep in time with your hips; Work For Love’s George Benson guitar and just-behind-the-beat bass glides around you with a come hither look that was more than hinted at in the opening measured funk of Love My Shadow; and if Tragic feels at first like a Al Green song leaning back in its chair watching you, it soon insinuates itself into your personal space with an elegant but unmistakeable sensuality, and next thing you know you’re pressing back.
After that, it makes sense that Give It Up For Nature, flute, guitar and oiled flesh, and Lonely Town, bubbling keyboards, confidently leading piano and follow-me guitar, play naughty and nice in equal measure. Because on this island, naughty is nice.
And, suited or not, isn’t that just that little bit more sophisticated?
APPLE MUSIC: Listen to Joel Sarakula – Island Time