More Than Lights' debut prescribes dose for those funky illz

Categories: CD Review
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When you first discover Minneapolis' own More Than Lights -- the eclectic septet and block party funk mob on the mic, strings, and electronics -- you might think they belong to an updated realm of "Sesame Street."

Toddlers aside, promo photos feature band members in various colored winter hats, which isn't a bad testament to their multi-flavored family vibe. Some of the tunes from their November 21 debut album, The Electric Prescription For All Your Funky Illz, are straight-up bursts of jubilation (sometimes simply thankful for the air in our lungs); others deal in the compassionate heat of some of life's chance moments. Either way, you'll want to warn the youth inside you: these pleasantries might induce lots of hand-holding, spontaneous ecstasy, and maybe a little jazz in those hips.

Beginning as a trio of musically-inclined art students in 2002, MTL have finally snowballed into a careful bit of positive-feeling chemistry, playing a multitude of venues from Mankato to Minneapolis to Menomonie, Wis. In 2004, Unicus and New MC of hip-hop group Kanser joined the likes of vocalist Natalie Fine, guitarist virtuoso Matiu Unga and drummer Corey Hess (whose producing talents led the group to record the album out of his bedroom). The final installment came in 2007, when Augsburg students Josh "Jellyfish" Holmgren (keyboards, saxophone) and Chris Hunnicut (bass) took up arms with the crew, ready to preach the righteous soul of a group already steeped in musical gifts.

Their efforts spawned a seminal blend of blues and jazz, latin beats and big band, hip-hop and new-school hotness. It's a constantly shifting spotlight. It might be Fine's vocal graces ("I take inspiration like it's medicine/Swallowing it down, so I can pass it out again") or Unga's wily solos (the delicious "Eyes of a Lady"), guest lyricists or the lighthearted whimsy of Kanser's big men on campus.

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