Sounding as free-spirited as Brian Wilson and as tight as anything from the Tom Tom Club, Animal Feelings — the latest from Rafter Roberts — comes off like a white guy’s take on Parliament-Funkadelic, a jazz band that could rock hard and still remain true to the funk. Animal Feelings is indeed funky, but it’s kind of a shorthand version of funk. Where Parliament founder George Clinton would layer on a glaze of rich, thumpy bottom end and fill every nook and cranny with odd noises and psychedelic guitars, Roberts goes lean and spare — it is what he leaves out that adds the most value. The space between the beats, the silence, is what gives the record its texture.
Rafter Roberts was born near San Francisco, lived in New York for a while, and eventually settled in San Diego, where he opened a recording studio with a partner. It was the right time and place to be here. Notable bands such as Gogogo Airheart, the Black Heart Procession, Rocket from the Crypt, and Kill Me Tomorrow all logged time in Roberts’s studio. He recorded and produced an astonishing number of local bands (and some jingles for commercials, too) before beginning work on his own stuff.
Roberts’s earlier music seems more about serious art-punk, but maybe that was just a sign of the times. Animal Feelings stands out as being well-crafted amusement, nothing more, nothing less. By definition, a hipster’s dance record. Not to overthink this, but sometimes being original pays off, and this is one of those times.
RAFTER ROBERTS: Tin Can Alehouse, Saturday, April 17, 9 p.m. 619-955-8525.