Bob Asher, bombastic frontman for celebrated local music experiment Hearts of Darkness, has incessantly plugged the 18-piece and its previous incarnations, claiming that the band's live show "makes good girls dance dirty and bad boys get down." The group's studio debut means to do the same, with six original songs that expertly fold funk, hip-hop and jazz into complex dance-party music.
Hearts of Darkness has evolved from its original Afrobeat classification, but the root elements remain: Les Izmore's socially responsible lyrics; women backup singers trilling slightly obnoxious call-and-response vocals; a seven-piece horn section that includes songwriting saxophonists Alex Smith and Jolan Smith; and four percussionists working a djembe, a shakere, congas and a drum kit. The infectious grooves are beautifully mastered (especially the songs sung by the soulful Jolan Smith). But despite expert tracking by Chad Meise and mastering by Colin Jordan, Hearts of Darkness recordings lack the raw energy of the band's perpetually sold-out gigs. The ambitious outfit has set a benchmark for local live music. But now that it has generated a following and been hyped and recorded, it might be time to see what the next experiment is.