Surprise Chef – ‘Daylight Savings’ review: A soul-funk soundtrack to rejuvenate a beleaguered Melbourne

The instrumental band bring uplifting jazz-funk optimism to a city in need of some healing

When Surprise Chef wrote and recorded their second album, ‘Daylight Savings’, in their Coburg sharehouse, they couldn’t have seen this coming. In any normal circumstance, this album would be a breath of fresh air after getting through another cruel Melbourne winter, rising to part the clouds and signalling the start of another glorious season of live music. But here we are instead, Victoria now hopefully emerging – at the time of writing, anyway – from the most intense coronavirus lockdown Australia has experienced.

‘Daylight Savings’ then doubles not as the starting pistol of the summer silly season, but as a beaming beacon of hope for the future. It is a rejuvenating soul-funk soundtrack that channels the charm of ’70s Capitol Records, in particular the Californian grooves of David Axelrod, and shoots it through with the panache of Melbourne’s thriving future jazz scene.

While their Melbourne peers like The Putbacks and Horatio Luna channel R&B and hip-hop respectively, Surprise Chef have their sights firmly set on vintage funk. Opening track ‘College Welcome’ starts things off gently with bluesy piano, while second song ‘Deadlines’ combines droning synths with smooth funk guitar licks for a widescreen, cinematic effect.

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And speaking of cinematic effects – this is an album teeming with movie magic. ‘Daylight Savings’ unspools like a reel of old film, unfolding as satisfyingly as a lost classic being viewed for the first time. ‘New Ferrari’ courses through a head-nodding mixture of Khruangbin-esque, Texas sun-tinged guitar lines before crescendoing with a flurry of drums and dreamy synths. The title track itself sounds like the opening theme of a Tarantino film, its taut rhythm section as confidently performed as any of his characters.

On songs like ‘Washing Day’ and ‘Sick Day’, Surprise Chef focus on the everyday and find a refreshing lightness in it: the former is a hazy, guitar-led slow-burner that offers far more gusto than a regular washing day would, while the latter’s acid-like keys squelch and slide like someone ill rolling around in bed. ‘Dinner Time’ brings as much joy as a well-earned meal does, its dusky guitar line and copper-coloured synths chattering to each other warmly like two friends sharing a plate of great grub at sunset.

‘Daylight Savings’ is an effortlessly lovable album that couldn’t have come at a better time for a city reeling from a winter unlike any other. It’s a warm hug of a record that perfectly encapsulates the unshakeable Melbourne spirit. As the days grow warmer and the evenings get lighter, Surprise Chef are bringing uplifting jazz-funk optimism to a city in need of some love and healing.

Details

Surprise Chef Melbourne album Daylight Savings
  • Release Date: October 16
  • Label: College Of Knowledge / Mr Bongo
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