Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″: Fly On, Baby


They’re in and out in under 10 minutes, but Wight‘s new 7″, Helicopter Mama b/w I Wanna Know What You Feel (which we’ll shorted to just Helicopter Mama from here on out), could easily serve as a landmark for the German band going forward. Pressed in an edition of 333 copies with 111 in black, 111 in green and 111 others in various color vinyl and released by Fat and Holy Records to coincide with an Aug. 2015 European tour (info here) and help fund the making of their next full-length, it’s also the first studio work they’ve done since their second album, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) came out in 2012.

True, they’ve had a couple live digital offerings since, but Helicopter Mama marks a return to the studio, and it’s also their first outing as a foursome, having recorded Through the Woods into Deep Water and their 2011 debut, Wight Weedy Wight (review here), as the trio of guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and Thomas Kurek prior to adding percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening in 2014. That is a big change in itself, but even the jump from a three- to a four-piece doesn’t really capture the scale of the progression Wight have evidently undertaken in the last three years. Where Through the Woods into Deep Water brimmed with heavy psychedelic vitality, exploding its way through earthy but still spacious jams and rolling riffs, Helicopter Mama is even more of a turn than that album was as compared to Wight Weedy Wight, leaving behind most of the psychedelic flourish and instead digging into a classic soul and funk influence across both “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel.”

Calling it a surprise would be underselling it, but Wight warned their listeners ahead of the new songs making their way out that they were up to something different going forward, and while it’s entirely possible that by the time they get around to their third long-player, they’ll be on a completely different trip, it’s worth noting that they do a heavy funk style extremely well. “Helicopter Mama” — which I didn’t at first until I read the lyrics, but you’ve probably heard the phrase “helicopter parent” before, so extrapolate from that — is wah-soaked ’70s-style funk, what they used to call “hard funk,” and it shows a decided Funkadelic/Sly Stone influence, but Hofmann delivers a soulful vocal that not only makes it believable, but winds up carrying the track as a whole.

It starts with a gong hit and a snare roll, but “Helicopter Mama” itself is all swank and swing, and it keeps its loose feel for the duration, through verses and choruses and into a heavier vibing second half, Kirchpfening making his presence felt while the track nestles into a late chorus that brings to mind some of Cherry Choke‘s soulful psychedelics without losing either its rhythmic pulse or forward movement. Last line of the song is “Some things never change,” but clearly some things do. This fusion continues to be the core of what Wight bring to the table on “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” but they tilt the balance more to the rock side, and wind up absolutely nailing a modernized take on a Rare EarthHumble Pie-style funk/rock blend, complete with a backing chorus, consistent psychedelic underpinnings to the classic blues rock swing and a push into a gospel-style vocal arrangement that not only ties together with “Helicopter Mama”‘s funkified spirit, but further expands the context of Wight‘s aesthetic shift as well.

So Wight are both embarking on this stylistic turn and showing an immediate range within it on Helicopter Mama, which makes the 7″ even more impressive. It would be one thing if they came into the tracks sort of hemming about and timid, but between how Hofmann belts out “Helicopter Mama” from the gut and the swaggering groove of “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” the only thing one might call “safe” about the release is the fact that the band clearly waited until they knew what they were doing before they put it out. They’ve given themselves multiple avenues through which to continue to grow, and I’d very much doubt these two songs are the limits of what they’re looking to accomplish within this range — or, for that matter, outside of it, since if Wight came back with a record that tied these sounds with some of the last record’s jammy propensity, it would be hard to say it didn’t make sense as a next move.

Neither would I mind if they pushed their funkish propensity into all-out weirdness and wound up layering in effected solos and backwards loops à la some 1970-style soul weirdness. Only their next record will tell where they wind up, and even that will only tell as far as itself, but it says something about the success of the sampling Wight give on Helicopter Mama that it’s so easy to be excited about what they might do to follow it up. Until they get there, they’ve given those familiar with their past work a look at where they’re headed and offered anyone who hadn’t climbed on board yet a welcoming reason and means by which to do so. Again, it’s a quick offering, but it accomplishes much in its short runtime and I’ve very quickly come to consider it among the best short releases I’ve heard in 2015.

Wight, Helicopter Mama (2015)

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