Tush Keep Dance Floors Grooving from Afar on 'Fantast'

BY Matt BauerPublished Jul 28, 2021

Tush have accumulated a well-earned reputation as one of Toronto's most incendiary groove machines. Originally surfacing from the city's fertile warehouse scene, the septet — driven by vocalist Kamilah Apong and bassist Jamie Kidd — ignited dance floors with their transcendent live show, a celebration indebted to the glory days of early disco that cleverly avoided pastiche thanks to the troupe's sheer talent and resolute devotion to a shamefully, all-too-often neglected chapter in music history. 

Debut album Fantast fulfills the expectations of their 2018 EP do you feel excited? and other singles while seeing them broadening their soundscape, adding electro-funk, soulful house and boogie to their already infectious vibe. Album opener "Wavy Baby," a mid-paced number awash in futuristic synthesizer, is a hypnotic invitation to rapture that's affirmed on the very next number, lead single "Chrysalis," a carpe-diem rush of retro video game soundtracks fused with potent house drive.

On "Don't Be Afraid," Apong channels unsung disco divas Venus Dodson and Christine Wiltshire while adding her own passionate flair as the track slowly builds into a gospel-influenced intensity sustained with backing vocals by Lydia Persaud, R-Flex, Shahi Teruko and Tafari Anthony. The reprise version of the track from later in the album, meanwhile, evokes the classic '80s production style of Patrick Adams and Leroy Burgess with its Roland 808 pulse and jazzy, Fender Rhodes chords. The song's message of resiliency, love and bravery aligns with disco's Black and queer origins — a narrative thread woven throughout the album by interludes featuring members of Apong's family from Black River, Jamaica.

While concerts are still an iffy proposition, "Jessica F***" is the album's finest showcase of Tush's joyous interplay recalling the fervour of their live performances — Kidd's pumping bass lines, endless grooves, scintillating rhythms and soaring vocals that would strip a venue's varnish in one night. "My Joy" closes the album with sunny reassurance over a churchy organ progression as Apong's loved ones join on backing vocals, turning the song's title into a mantra for troubled times.

Fantast is an auspicious debut from an outfit that will be rocking dance floors for a long time.
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