2017 has seen Calvin Harris radically and successfully overhaul his approach to making music. High-intensity EDM has been jettisoned in favour of a calmer and cleaner sound inspired by R&B, nu-disco and rap. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is a self-produced album that sees Harris play a wide range of instruments in order to give his new LP an old-school and tropical sound. One thing that has remained the same in Harris’ musical approach is the emphasis on collaboration, with nineteen different artists offering guest vocals for this album. The music has taken precedence over commercial success and this has led to the creation of a strong album brimming with character and star-quality.
The album opens with ‘Slide’, the first new single released for this album which features Frank Ocean and Migos, a track that opens with an enchanting piano melody and seamlessly blends daytime disco akin to the likes of Poolside with old-school hip-hop. It couldn’t get much further from Harris’ previous output and is a bold statement of intent. Meanwhile ‘Feels’, the fourth single from Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, is the most pop-orientated track on the album that musically speaking fits the album’s brief perfectly, an effortless mix of ska and rap enhanced by the assured vocals of Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean. In addition to these major names, Harris has also been willing to collaborate with a number of emerging artists, all of whom add a new dimension to his latest LP. For example, Khalid excels on the slow synth-funk jam ‘Rollin’, and Jessie Reyez adds a smoky edge to the album’s closing track ‘Hard to Love’.
Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1. is a brave and fruitful musical adventure for Calvin Harris. It’s an album unafraid of taking risks and his new musical philosophy should be embraced. Every track is as painstakingly crafted as the last and the album has much more of a human touch than any of his previous work. Earlier this year, Harris tweeted that he wanted to make music that was “feel good and inclusive,” having also said that joyful music was missing both from the world and his life. Harris has certainly succeeded in these objectives. Every track has its own unique identity and all evoke the image of the calm, idyllic sunset that features on the album’s cover. The album is only 10 tracks long and is able to get its message across in just over half an hour, but crucially leaves the listener wanting more. Should Harris ever release Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2, let’s hope for more of the same.By James Baker