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SURPRISE CHEF

Surprise Chef’s music is based on evoking mood; their vivid arrangements utilize time and space to build soundscapes that invite the listener into their world. The quintet’s distinct sound pulls from 70s film scores, the funkier side of jazz, and the samples that form the foundation of hip-hop. They push the boundaries of instrumental soul and funk with their own approach honed by countless hours in the studio, studying the masters, and perhaps most importantly, the ‘tyranny of distance’ that dictates a unique perspective to their music.

Surprise Chef is Lachlan Stuckey on guitar, Jethro Curtin on keys, Carl Lindeberg on bass, Andrew Congues on drums, and Hudson Whitlock - the latest member who does it all from percussion to composing to producing. Their self proclaimed ‘moody shades of instrumental jazz-funk’ have a bit of everything: punchy drums, infectious keys, rhythm guitar you might hear on a Studio One record, and flute lines that could be from a Blue Note session. But when you step back and take in the entirety of their sound and approach, you'll hear and see a group greater than the sum of its parts.

In many ways Surprise Chef embodies the idiom ‘the benefits of limits.’ They were limited in that there weren't many people making or talking about instrumental jazz/soul/funk in Southeast Australia, let alone putting out records. This left them to develop their sound and approach in a kind of creative isolation where a small circle of friends and like-minded musicians fed off each other. ‘Being in Australia, being so far away, we only get glimpses and glances of this music’s origins,’ Stuckey says. ‘But hearing a label like Big Crown was one of the first times we realized you could make fresh, new soul music that wasn't super retro or just nostalgic.’

This approach is on full display throughout their new album “Education & Recreation”. Tracks like “Velodrome” pair chunky drums with an earworm synth line that has all the making of something you would find on an Ultimate Breaks & Beats compilation while numbers like “Iconoclasts” show their knack for tasteful use of space. From the crushing intro of “Suburban Breeze” to the floaty mellow bop of “Spring’s Theme” Surprise Chef has weaved together an album that takes you through peaks and valleys of emotion and provides a vivid soundtrack that will pull you deeper into your imagination. There is a beauty in the vast space for interpretation of instrumental music and they are adding a modern classic to the canon with this new album. You can imagine hip-hop producers 10, 20 years from now sampling their dusty wares in much the same way as Dorothy Ashby, Arthur Verocai are dug by present day in-the-know beatsmiths are today.


STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: More languid, head-nodding funk & soul instrumentals from these rising Melbournians. They possess the relaxed, effortless sway of Khruangbin but with the swagger and smokiness you'd perhaps associate with Daptone (or indeed their current stable, Big Crown) signings. Both suited to sun lounging by the sea or downing whiskey at the jazz club; there's an open endedness to their compositions which let's the mind wander and dream.

TRACK LISTING

Side 1
1. Bakery Pledge Of Allegiance
2. Grinners Circle
3. Velodrome
4. Suburban Breeze
5. Conversation Piece
6. Iconoclasts
Side 2
1. Money Music
2. Spring's Theme
3. Together Again
4. Winter’s Theme
5. Ten & Two
6. Goldie’s Lullaby

Surprise Chef / Minoru Muraoka

The Positive And The Negative

    Minoru Muraoka's 'The Positive and the Negative' is a frm favourite at Mr Bongo. It sees a master of the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo Japanese fute, fex his prodigious skill resulting in a unique mix of breakbeat jazz and Japanese folkloric music. 'The Positive and the Negative' featured on the 1970 'Bamboo' album, which Mr Bongo reissued in 2019. Heralded by DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Egon, and many others. The record's cult status had us thinking how could we pay further homage to a sublime track such as this. The opportunity came to us in an email from Melbourne's Surprise Chef with a link to the fabulous reinterpretation of the track which they had just recorded.Forged in their signature sound, "The Chef" have made 'The Positive and the Negative' their own whilst simultaneously treating the original with utmost respect.

    The shakuhachi and koto have been replaced by synths and guitars, but the breakbeat psychedelic vein fows richly through both instruments. The 7" vinyl format was the right ft for this release, so the original Minoru Muraoka recording which clocks in over nine minutes has been edited into a 7" version to accompany Surprise Chef's new take. "Minoru Muraoka's 'Bamboo' LP has long been a fxture in our record bags, mostly for the killer shakuhachi funk cut The Positive and The Negative. The record is possibly our favourite from Mr Bongo's extensive catalogue of reissues, and certainly the most infuential to Surprise Chef; The Positive and the Negative's cinematic atmosphere paired with the wonky drum feels and dramatic performance makes it a near-perfect amalgamation of what we try to capture on Surprise Chef records.

    We've borrowed an element or two from the tune over the last few albums (such as the percussion on 'The Limp'), so it felt right to go head frst into reinterpreting the entire track for ourselves. We recorded the tune in Karate Boogaloo's attic studio with our man Henry Jenkins at the controls and Hudson Whitlock on percussion. We spent an entire day trying to get the take; we felt such a deep responsibility to capture the intensity of the original, we must have done 20 or 30 takes before we were fnally happy. We stuck a fork in it late into the night, satisfed that we'd had our best crack at paying homage to a masterpiece by the great Minoru Muraoka." - Surprise Chef

    TRACK LISTING

    Surprise Chef - The Positive And The Negative /
    Minoru Muraoka - The Positive And The Negative (Mr Bongo 7” Edit)

    Being the humble guys that they are, Surprise Chef aren't going to admit they have something very special going down. However, there must be some magic in their studio, or maybe in the fact they all share a house and have formed close bonds, or perhaps from absorbing the DIY ethos of running their own record label that has culminated in such a unique and enchanting sound.

    'Daylight Savings' is the follow-up to the group's debut album 'All News Is Good News’. That album earned the band a much-deserved following across the world and triumphantly marked their arrival onto the international stage. Their new album was recorded in Spring 2019, almost exactly a year after they recorded ‘All News Is Good News’. It was the weekend that daylight savings time started in Australia, and the studio was filled with the smell of the towering Jasmine bush on the exterior back wall of the house. The record is subsequently filled with the optimism that comes with the impending warmer months and longer days in Australia.

    Recorded in their own home studio in Melbourne, the production approach for 'Daylight Savings' is a big step up from their debut. Engineer, Henry Jenkins, created enormous-sounding space within this record, using a great deal of creative analogue recording techniques and working in an expansive recording environment. The results are a sound that emulates the massiveness of the late-60s Capitol Records.

    ‘Daylight Savings' was written collaboratively by the whole band and features the core Surprise Chef rhythm section. It expands upon where their debut left off with a leaning more towards 70's jazzfunk than soul and a stronger focus on the rhythm section. There’s the epic drama, ebbs and flows of a vintage David Axelrod or Alain Goraguer cinematic production, plus the influence of El Michels Affair and Melbourne bands Karate Boogaloo and The Putbacks, yet it still sounds uniquely Surprise Chef. You get a sense of that rare attribute of being both a contemporary band and a band you expect it won't be too long before other producers start sampling them.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Sunny Melbourne soulsters Surprise Chef return for another LP of sunshine groove and jazzed out instrumentals. Toeing the line expertly between frenetic, percussive mayhem and Khruangbin-esque downbeat business, they have crafted a uniquely innovative and sun-dappled sound. Another perfect pick-me-up.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. College Welcome
    2. Deadlines 
    3. New Ferrari
    4. Washing Day
    5. College Welcomes Carl
    6. Sick Day
    7. Daylight Savings
    8. Dinner Time
    9. Leave It, Don Take It
    10. The Limp

    There is something simultaneously both brand-new and retro about ‘All News Is Good News’ - the debut album from Melbourne’s instrumental soul group Surprise Chef.

    It sounds like something dreamt up by lo-fi cousins of David Axelrod and Janko Nilovic, with dramatic Library-music-eqsue cinematic arrangements echoing both light and dark, delving into moments of dissonance and positivity. There is a meticulous education of 1970’s soul on display that touches on the legacies of the great composer / producers, yet at the same time this is a truly contemporary record that could have only been made now. The first limited pressing of ‘All News Is Good News’ was released on the band’s own College Of Knowledge imprint in November 2019.

    It slipped rapidly into the collective consciousness of underground music lovers around the world, with all copies selling out within a week and becoming a firm favourite at Mr Bongo HQ in the process. We felt Surprise Chef had made something very special, a future-classic, and that needed to be heard well beyond those lucky enough to have bagged those limited first copies. Formed at the end of 2017, Surprise Chef have grown within the fertile, creative, and supportive Melbourne music scene. Whilst the band is comprised of four core members, the album features friends and family as guest instrumentalists on flute, saxophone, vibraphone, congas, and assorted percussion; all adeptly recorded by engineer Henry Jenkins from the band Karate Boogaloo.

    The warm-raw-authenticity of the album was captured in the recordings live to tape over a handful of sessions in the band’s home studio in Melbourne’s inner-northern suburb of Coburg. As band member Lachlan Stuckey explains “All of the music we record is tracked live to tape, simply because so many of the records we love most were made that way”.

    The results are a captivating journey of instrumental cinematic-soul that will connect with the hardened Axelrod, Truth & Soul, El Michels Affair, and Daptone’s fans, as well as the open-minded first-time listener. We are very excited to share this first slice of Surprise Chef’s world, with plenty more magic from these guys coming around the corner very soon.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Wow! Surprise chef have all the groove you'd expect from good old 1960's soul, mixed with the sort of plunderphonic hiss of modern soundtracks and sleazy lounge. An intoxicating mix indeed.

    TRACK LISTING

    All News Is Good News
    Herbie Hemphill
    Blyth Street Nocturne
    Have You Fed Baby Huey Today
    Yung Boi Suite
    Crayfish Caper
    Flip Shelton
    Drinking From The Cup Of Bob Knob
    Mario’s Lament


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