SINGLE REVIEW: Cooks But We're Chefs - Kodama

A Return for Ireland's Finest

Cooks But We're Chefs - Kodama (2021 Secret Fun)
 

Cooks But We're Chefs are on a warpath. With every new release this Dublin septet has found new ways to mesmerise in their fusion of jazz-funk witchcraft, and latest single 'Kodama' stands as just the latest instalment of an increasingly impressive back catalogue of songs. From blasting their way into our attention with Sports Day in 2020 (our pick for last year's best underground EP) while layering inventive progressions, crystalline horn lines and faultless vocals, Cooks But We're Chefs are an unmissable group.


Like much of the Chefs' work, 'Kodama' opens itself with Luke O' Dwyer's keys, dialled in to the grooviest dimension with Daniel Kearns behind the kit - all punctuated by the expectedly fantastic basslines of Dougie Sealy. Like all of their singles, it's so exciting to hear a group of unbelievably talented musicians experimenting with rhythm and surprising modulations, and led by O' Dwyer's keyboard stabs 'Kodama' spends its three minute run time twisting and turning in unpredictably interesting directions. While the jump at [1:08] might be a step too chromatic for some listeners, the single stands out as a real progression in terms of how this group continues to experiment and evolve with their genre fusions.


As ever, Methembe Mafu excels in his delivery on the first verse. Building upon his trademark flow, when Methembe raps the whole song explodes with momentum. His cadence rises and falls with the same mesmerising affect as the waves he lyricises about, while still dominating an instrumental that lesser rappers wouldn't be able to keep up with. As the drums switch up into a nauseatingly excellent groove at the minute mark, Mafu still has the song firmly under control before the Chefs horn section provides a perfect compliment to him.


Speaking of the horns, Dan Coyne's saxophone again sounds clean as hell flying through the mix, but on 'Kodama' the track's true highlight emerges when one of its horn section puts down the trumpet. Jesse Russell's verse is not only my favourite part of the track, it's the best verse I've ever heard from him. In the multi-headed hydra of Russell, Mafu and Siofra Nolan (who also kills it) it can become easy to get used to their unwavering quality, but on 'Kodama' Russell has ascended to his highest point. Whether it's with the distant backing vocals or the occasional doubling of the vocal track for some reason this verse just leaps out of the speaker. And man, when the band drops out and its just Russell, Kearns and a rude downward bass lick from Sealy? Audible screams here at SMPM HQ.


Then, as the track calms down, Nolan just decides to remind everyone that there are three verifiable vocal superstars in this one band. It's an embarrassment of riches, most bands out there don't have one vocalist that lives up to the quality of the Chefs, but with this band having three (and using them all well) it's so enjoyable. In its final moments 'Kodama' shifts into a brand new act, allowing Nolan to flourish in the half-spaces illuminated by echoed harmonies mixed to perfection by Des Garvey. Progressing seamlessly from the funk-driven key stabs of its first few seconds, its a testament to the group's songwriting ability that the transition is so natural that you don't realise just how many different ideas have been strung together on the song. It's a work of incredible creativity, and near flawless execution. It's one of the best songs of the year, and in no uncertain terms, Cooks But We're Chefs are, have been, and will remain absolutely fucking sick.

 

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cooks but we're chefs: spotify // instagram // bandcamp

 

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