Avant-funk Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-funk

Avant-funk is a music style in which artists combine funk rhythms with an avant-garde or art rock mentality.[3] Its most prominent era occurred in the late 1970s among post-punk acts who embraced black dance styles.[4]


Critic Simon Reynolds described avant-funk as "difficult dance music" and a kind of psychedelia in which "oblivion was to be attained not through rising above the body, rather through immersion in the physical, self loss through animalism."[3] Musicologist Simon Frith described avant-funk as an application of progressive rock mentality to rhythm rather than melody and harmony.[3]

Some motifs of the style in the 1970s and 1980s included "neurotic slap-bass" and "guttural pseudo-sinister vocals,"[1] as well as "Eurodisco rhythms; synthesizers used to generate not pristine, hygienic textures, but poisonous, noisome filth; Burroughscut-up technique applied to found voices."[3] According to Reynolds, the movement was animated by the notion that "rock's hopes of enjoying a future beyond mere antiquarianism depends on assimilating the latest rhythmic innovations from black dance music."[1]


Talking Heads combined funk with elements of punk and art rock.

Early acts who have retrospectively been described with the term include German krautrock band Can,[5] American funk artists Sly Stone and George Clinton,[6] and jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.[7] Herbie Hancock's 1972 album Sextant was called an "uncompromising avant-funk masterpiece" by Paste.[8] Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman led the avant-funk band Prime Time in the 1970s and 1980s.[9] Guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer, who performed with Coleman in the 1970s, was described by The New Yorker as "one of avant-funk's masters."[10]

According to Reynolds, a pioneering wave of avant-funk artists came in the late 1970s, when post-punk artists (including Public Image Ltd, Liquid Liquid, and James Chance, as well as Cabaret Voltaire, Talking Heads, The Pop Group, DAF, A Certain Ratio, and 23 Skidoo)[11] embraced black dance music styles such as funk and disco.[4] Reynolds noted these artists' preoccupations with issues such as alienation, repression and the technocracy of Western modernity.[3] The all-female avant-funk group ESG formed in The Bronx during this era.[12] The artists of the late 1970s New York no wave scene, including James Chance, explored avant-funk influenced by Ornette Coleman.[2]

Later groups such as Skinny Puppy, Chakk, and 400 Blows represented later waves of the style. By the mid-1980s, avant-funk had dissipated as white alternative groups turned away from the dancefloor.[1] Many of its original practitioners instead became a part of the UK's first wave of house music,[11] including Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H. Kirk and Graham Massey of Biting Tongues (and later of 808 State).[1] Reynolds compared the UK's rave music and jungle scenes of the early 1990s to a "reactivation" of avant-funk, calling it "a populist vanguard, a lumpen bohemia that weirdly mashed together the bad-trippy sounds of art school funk-mutation with a plebeian pill-gobbling rapacity.[1] Avant-funk would go on to influence 1990s drum and bass producers such as 4hero and A Guy Called Gerald.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reynolds, Simon (2001). "Dancing on the Edge". Index.
  2. ^ a b Murray, Charles Shaar (October 1991). Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix & The Post-War Rock 'N' Roll Revolution. Macmillan. p. 205. ISBN 9780312063245. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Reynolds, Simon (February 13, 1987). "End of the Track". New Statesman.
  4. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Penguin. ISBN 9781101201053. avant-funk sly stone.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1995). "Krautrock Reissues". Melody Maker. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  6. ^ Staff (25 December 2004). "Passings". Billboard. No. 116. Nielsen. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  7. ^ Gluckin, Tzvi. "Forgotten Heroes: Pete Cosey". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  8. ^ Jarnow, Jesse. "Herbie Hancock: Cafe Curiosity". Paste. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  9. ^ Russonello, Gionvanni. "Ornette Coleman's Innovations Are Celebrated at Lincoln Center". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  10. ^ Brody, Richard. "Ornette Coleman's Revolution". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  11. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. pp. 20, 202. ISBN 9781593764777. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  12. ^ Greenman, Ben. "Living with Music: A Playlist by Ben Greenman". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  13. ^ Staff (February 1995). "Return Of The Gerald". Mixmag. No. 45.