Serpiko – ‘Sleep State’ review: mysterious funk-fuelled jazz odyssey

The mysterious artist's debut album 'Sleep State' is an intriguing mixture of funk and jazz-flecked electronica

First off, we know next to nothing about who or what Serpiko are all about. First promoted by independent magazine Psychic Garden on Instagram, and with a video directed by Denholm Hewlett – son of Gorillaz co-founder, Jamie Hewlett – it’s hard to discern whether it’s a deliberate ploy for mystery, or just a new artist finding their feet. It doesn’t really matter. In fact, the obfuscation plays into the music perfectly.

Debut album ‘Sleep State’ is a 7-track collection full of meditative, reflective singular jazz-flecked electronica – an eclectic mixture of various influences, odes to the greats, old and new. Opener ‘Quarantine theme’ and it’s woozy charm is reflective of the mundane inertia experienced by the world currently – an apt soundtrack for the planet’s ubiquitous feeling of Groundhog Day. The song’s wobbly baseline and light instrumentation sounds improvisatory but there’s a layer of sheen that forces the listener into asking themselves whether it’s been crafted like that.

‘Start Talking’ raises the tempo slightly with a silkiness akin to a cover by Toronto’s BadBadNotGood. Meditations of Sun Ra and Madlib rise on ‘Limbo’ whose tonal shift begs for a few smooth bars from the likes of Freddie Gibbs or Ghostface Killah. The softness of stand-out ‘Smoke Break’ breaks through the EP with its spaced-out, couch-melting ethereal jazz, the piano takes centre-stage while varied instrumentation bends and wraps around it.

The title track warbles with its threatening bass line rumble but the song remains nimble as the funk-filled bars go off on an adventure – perhaps there can be some positives of being stuck indoors and heading off into a new world. On ‘Waking Up’, listen for touches of Art Blakey a la ‘Moanin’, hints of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis incorporated into a bundle of pure singular introspective funk-filled jazz. With an almost-Flamenco touch, ‘July’ rounds off the EP in emphatic fashion, allowing ‘Sleep State’ to drift away as the credits on a movie roll down slowly. Whether it announces a new talent to the world or not, ‘Sleep State’ captures the current zeitgeist in a truly remarkable way.

  • Release date: July 27
  • Record label: Kenj