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We’ve been happily along for the ride with Philly sonic explorers Arthur Thomas and the Funkitorium ever since catching one of their first live sets at The Lounge at World Cafe Live over the summer of 2019. Their sound was a crowd-pleasing mix of funk, hip-hop, and spacey rock, their energy was hugely off the charts, and their charisma was undeniable. A fired-up Key Studio Session followed, plus killer live sets like we saw at Philly Music Fest, and a solid run of singles.

That culminates in the release of Welcome to Funktar, the band’s debut project, released today on Spring Garden Records. The seven-song-set goes to show that, while funk is such a guiding light that it’s in the band name and album title — and it’s not to be missed in the lead single and closing banger, the unstoppable “How You Like Me Now?” — Arthur Thomas and co. take their sound so much further than you’d expect.

The opening “B Train,” raw and rambunctious in its live version, soars in the album recording with handclaps, keyboard tones, and a chorus of voices leading the way. “Money Man” kicks it with a high-BPM pulse and “Fried Chicken” gets into ponderous outer regions of psychedelia, with vocalists Arthur Thomas and Re-Mus contemplating Black culture lyrically while guitarist Zavetis shreds into the stratosphere.

The psychedelic / jam journey continues on the title track, while the lusty “Brown Skin Betty” gets down to a grimy beat and horn section. Most surprising is the infectious interstellar groove of “Slow Down” which draws on Latin funk rhythms and bright, beautiful falsetto vocals to paint an expansive picture of a person making an uncertain trip at a measured pace.

The set has energy, versatility, and joy, and by the time we hit that concluding question — “How You Like Me Now?” — the answer is a resounding “a lot. A lot indeed.”

Arthur Thomas and the Funkitorium will celebrate their album release tonight by playing World Cafe Live’s “House Concert” series at 8 p.m. ET. Tune in over at the WCL YouTube page, and get your copy of Welcome to Funktar via Spring Garden Records (or listen to it streaming below).

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