Q.A.S.B. - Thinking of You

[SG-063] cover (final).jpg

“Thinking of You” is the fourth album from Japanese soul/funk group Q.A.S.B. featuring its new lead singer a.yu.mi and a revamped lineup. Though the members may have changed, funk is forever.

Originally formed in Tokyo in 2005, the initial lineup of Q.A.S.B. featured Amy-A on vocals and the sound was heavily influenced by James Brown and early 1970’s funk balanced with mellow numbers to suit her style. Over the first 10 years they put out a few albums through the SoulGardenRecords label using this formula, but Amy-A left in 2015, and in the intervening years the bassist and percussionist changed as well.

So here we are in 2019, and Q.A.S.B. has gone all in on a.yu.mi, putting her front and square on the cover. Stylistically, the band still has its roots firmly in the superfly 70’s with the wah-wah effects, horn section (trumpet/sax/trombone), bongos and organ sounds, but if anything, the balance has tipped more toward mellow on this first record with a.yu.mi. It’s more of an evolutionary update than a revolutionary overhaul, sanding off the rougher edges and taking on a wider scope of influences across history. The end result is a little more like Joey Negro and the Sunburst Band, perfectly nailing the old school vibes of funk, soul and disco while being unmistakably 21st century in production and vision.

Ultimately, this album is driven by a.yu.mi, and all the mellow numbers are about being in love. Presumably by design, there aren’t songs about heartbreak or difficult relationships, it’s a very romantic view of love and life, which fits well given that Q.A.S.B. is about romanticizing the past. She has a very classy, refined voice, and though the English lyrics may be a little fluffy at times, her delivery is committed and honest, allowing you to fall under the spell. Which is important, because it saves the music from being kitsch or artificial. “Thinking of You” as the album’s banner single is surprisingly catchy for a love song, while “You’re My Star” has a lot of interesting turns. a.yu.mi equally has the ability to get down and funky, and is more than a match for Amy-A on the album’s uptempo tracks that are more faithful to the older Q.A.S.B. sound. Meanwhile, don’t sleep on the instrumental “Double Decker,” which could easily stand in as the theme song for a 70’s show like Charlie’s Angels, Kojak or Starsky and Hutch, and with a.yu.mi singing over the top its just magic.

In a way, Q.A.S.B. has become less fixated on a particular point in time, and now reflects on the past in order to move forward. "Soul music has over 40 years of history, which means we can now look back and draw upon all of that rich music history,” commented keyboardist and de facto leader Masamichi Ishikawa. “While reproducing that classic sound, we're able to give it new energy by bringing together all the elements from the 70's to the 80's and even the 90's, and it's something that we have only become able to do now, here in the present.”

With the current trends favoring analog vinyl, soul and disco, this is a great time for a new Q.A.S.B. record (heartily endorsed by prominent Shibuya DJs) and hopefully they can reach a new audience as they head toward their 15th year. Everything old is new again, and so if you want to be hip and with it, you better get up (and get down) with Q.A.S.B.

Royce Leong