Den of Thieves, "Pick the Lock" (We Coast)
Seattle label We Coast has been releasing a series of 7-inch singles that has made it the Pacific Northwest's answer to Daptone Records. In other words, We Coast is building a rep as a reliable source of funk, soul, and disco for discerning heads. Of the recent batch of 45s, Den of Thieves' "Pick the Lock"/"Ronin" stands out as my favorite—and not just because I can play both tracks in DJ sets, although that helps.
Featuring the drums of Grant Schroff and the percussion of Karl Olson (both of whom play in the large afrobeat/funk ensemble Polyrhythmics), Den of Thieves deliver a stunning debut release. The B-side "Ronin" is methodical and slightly dubbed out, with a subliminal xylophone motif lending eeriness to the slo-mo funk action. As great as it is, "Pick the Lock" is even better.
Its swift, athletic drum beats and intricate hand percussion interlock with dazzling funkentelechy, recalling the Heliocentrics, Incredible Bongo Band, Hal Blaine's Psychedelic Percussion, and the Junkyard Band. The slowed-down break in the second half is a genius counterintuitive move, as if they're chopping and screwing their own production. "Pick the Lock"'s stripped-down beats are perfect for sampling purposes, or simply to rock a dance floor. My only complaint is it's too short at 3:30. Early contender for single of the year by a Seattle group.