The arrival of a new Funki Porcini album is enough to clear aside whatever small stack of CDs may block safe package between mailbox and stereo system. Porcini has built up a body of electronic pop that truly distinguishes itself, not only from the work of his contemporaries in general, but also from that of his talented Ninja Tune peers — Ninja Tune being the tightly knit label that has issued most of his recordings, as well as music by Amon Tobin and Coldcut. Popular electronic music today consists of a continuum from avant-garde to dance music that’s weighted fairly heavily at either end, and Porcini enjoys a rare free-floating vantage point above the goings-on.
His latest, The Ultimately Empty Million Pounds (Ninja Tune), touches on the obsessions Porcini fans have come to expect: the jazz flourishes; the nods to cinema, especially John Barry’s modish soundtracks; the purposefully mixed bag of samples, shop-worn beats and experimental passages that promise some reward in trade for a bit of work on the part of the listener. But the only deep funk to be reported in regard to Empty Million Pounds, at least at this pre-release date, is that experienced by a too expectant listener. Perhaps one can only hear smoky old blue notes filtered so many times through readymade synthesizers, but for all its spy sounds, the album plods more than it swings. Bob Barker’s voice is just one of many all too familiar samples. And a track that turns an old musical-instruction LP into a ditty begs comparison to the Big Audio Dynamite hit of years back, “Rush.” Certainly it’s fun to hear BAD’s idea expanded into a song unto itself, but certainly we’ve come to expect more from Porcini.