On ‘Fantastist,’ Tush wows with dance-floor variety

Tush, the snowballing electronic music act from Toronto featuring vocalist Kamilah Apong and bassist, DJ, and producer Jamie Kidd, have been wowing audiences at festivals and club shows across that Canadian city for several years now.

They’ve earned their scratch, confecting their street cred by turning out seemingly equal numbers of warehouse sets and Pride performances. Debut album Fantast, packed with innumerable colors of tempo-flow in action, reminds us all of that quiet moment when light, embossed in golden hour beauty, peeks through the gloom and gives clarity space, deep in the dance floor a.m.

“Don’t Be Afraid (Reprise)”, a track deep in the third section of their debut, applies bass, drum, snare hits, wavy keys, and vocal manipulation. It entwines like a soft gentle breeze after a storm. These architects of dart-accurate rhythm and feel present a moment that could be a nanosecond, a minute, or several.

Something so stirring, dubbed-out, and clear holds everyone captive, including time itself. It will lead you to cat-call, cheer, and clap. To give pause and praise. Find Jesus or lose yourself to community.  

“Don’t Be Afraid (Reprise)” is three minutes and change of half-time come-down that allows beatitude to appear. We get a great reminder of what dance floors really mean; community that happens when everyone is gobsmacked.

“Wavy Gravy” cracks open the album with moon gravity pull and slow disco chug. “Don’t Be Afraid,” at full-time speed with full-tilt vocal prowess, readies us for the workout incoming. This is shifty house, a term that I’m coining after the shoulder movements into which it hypnotizes you. Not full-on shuffle foot, just vibe-y Roy Ayers coolness, with those upper disco BPMs helping Apong tell her lover “don’t be afraid,” before a full-out 4/4 wave takes over. It’s an “oh shit” moment you didn’t see coming. Kinda like this album.

Tush is not just one thing, and that’s where they succeed. Live. Eat. All the appropriate labels do stick for categorization purposes. Nu-disco, house adjacent, and all the 4/4 intenerations—yeah, those are here. But it’s the spirit that has them combining electro and Brit-funk, early disco, and soulful ’90s house that makes this duo so deadly and unfettered.

Excuse me while I repeat myself, for the cheap seats. Kamilah Apong can and does push that attitudinal funk posturing made famous by bands like Labelle and Parlet. Her work is contemporary without being derivative. Kidd’s wide palette of tones and textures shuffle foot-house to deep-pocket-Brand-New-Heavies funk and acid jazz. Those match the nomadic yet on-point characterizations she pulls out her bag on the daily.

Now, dance music geeks, aficionados, DJs, and all-around down-for-funk groovers have been talking big-shit about when clubs open back up, what they’re gonna do. You’ve heard the grumblings; “When I hear that jam, my jam I’m gonna blah blah blah.”

Yeah, you’re going to slip, bust your backside, and bruise some discs in your lower back, Peaches. Go ahead, do the wop. Go a little too ham. Roll that ankle. Send your thirsty clown butt to the ER. (That actually happened to somebody I know a while back, but we ain’t talking about right now.) Anyway, the dance floor dreamwork fantasy camp has been working overtime.

Fantast, as its name implies, the perfect soundtrack for these dreams. With a deep crate of bump and groove, it stays risky. The project thrives—excuse me, triumphs—on the strength of Apong and Kidd not being concerned with parameters. Fantast is tops.

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