Aussie psych funk fusion masters Mildlife offer an escape from your worries and fears with the smooth, uplifting Chorus.

Release date: March 1, 2024 | Heavenly Recordings | Facebook | Bandcamp

For all the comfort and catharsis music can offer when feeling depressed or enraged, sometimes you really want to just listen to something that feels plain good. Music that lets you lose yourself in a haze of good feelings; music that, for the length of a song or better yet an album, strips away all the worries and torments in life and just lets you enjoy the moment. There are a number of bands that peddle in such feelings, many of them very well, but one of my own favorites is Mildlife. And after several hard years for the world as a whole, they are back with a new album. In their capable hands, things are feeling very good.

Likely Australia’s finest purveyors of psychedelic jazzy funk fusion, Mildlife has previously delighted with 2017’s Phase and 2020’s Automatic, the latter of which being an album I seek out for good feelings on a regular basis. Fast forwarding to now, Mildlife is serving up their third full-length Chorus, and with it they seem to have crafted their brightest work yet. Indeed, the same sense of airy serenity they’ve always had clings to the grooves and melodies across the album’s length. But even though previous albums were never prone to go into more rugged textures, Chorus presents their sonic vision at it’s most honed, with every contour smoothed out and clear coated with a shining finish.

One thing that becomes apparent very quickly is that Mildlife is absolutely not looking to craft a dense, overwhelming sound here. Take opener “Forever”, a slow build that sees fit to kick off the proceedings on little more than a sparse rhythm section performance and thoughtful, soft singing from keyboardist Kevin McDowell. Synths and guitar introduce themselves slowly as the groove persists, finally coalescing into a full band grove more than halfway in. It sets a stage perfectly that Mildlife is happy to take their time to craft, an atmosphere with plenty of breathing room.

And yet, Chorus is no stranger to contrast. The smoothed-out verses of “Yourself”, a particular favorite of mine, require little more than an easy bassline and drumming with some jazzy chords to bolster the vocals. But the chorus of the song feels absolutely glorious with its slick hook, followed by a very cool, understated guitar solo and some great synths in the bridge. Meanwhile, a song like “Musica” leans fully into a bouncy groove that feels like a love letter to all things Italo disco (or, as my stepmother described it, ‘music that would be playing in a dance club in a 70’s sci-fi show‘). It puts a definite bit of a bop in the band’s slick sound, and makes sure the album doesn’t get too placid.

Variety seems to be the name of the game here, and Mildlife has a little trick or two that sets up every single track as something special. The ironically titled instrumental “Chorus” has a definite exotic vibe to it that sets a stage for some very cool flute and (what I’m assuming is) a riveting guitar synth solo over another endless groove. Closer and leadoff single “Return to Centaurus” features singing drenched in vocoder while the band locks into a spaced out vibe that almost feels like Pink Floyd, were they unburdened by the anxiety and dread of man and society. And it has to be said that “Sunrise” is an absolute beauty of a song, with synths that had me recalling Kool & the Gang’s legendary “Summer Madness” and a mellotron section that sent chills down my spine, evoking the titular breaking of day.

There’s really not a disposable song in the bunch here, even if “Future Life” draws the short straw sitting between the extended jams of “Chorus” and “Return to Centaurus” despite a very catchy refrain. It helps that the band are absolute masters of their craft, never putting a single note out of place. I’m particularly enamored of the guitar playing of Adam Halliwell, who absolutely knocks it out of the park with every riff and solo while never once feeling showboaty. Of course, the rhythm section of Tom Shanahan on bass and Jim Rindfleish on drums is top notch and can craft an unbeatable groove at any given moment.

No single song has lost its freshness over multiple listens, and the band’s subdued mastery of their instruments shines through every moment. I’m not entirely certain if this album will eclipse past triumphs like Automatic for me, but if it keeps holding up like this, there’s a strong chance it just might. Mildlife is a gem of a band when it comes to crafting uplifting music. And in days like these, an album like Chorus is soothing balm for the soul. Throw it on, forget about your worries for a while, and just let yourself feel good.

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