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Hearts of Darkness / Press

“Go see HOD if you got calories to burn and your dancing shoes on, because you will need them for certain. The energy is infectious and the grooves are non-stop. The crowd piled in shoulder to shoulder. The dancing was sweaty and furious. I got the impression that this show was the practice run of what is to occur at SXSW. I'd say it was an excellent success, the energy from the group was great and the grooves get tighter with each passing show. Austin might have weird on lock, but KC has soul and HOD is a fine representative of that.”

“Not unlike a promising baseball prospect, Hearts of Darkness has slowly but surely polished its skills in the musical equivalent of the minor leagues. Kansas City’s 15-piece Afrobeat band has succeeded at each level of its development, graduating from sketchy spaces in the West Bottoms to winning over fans at the area’s most respected clubs. It even earned a couple of brief stints in the big time when it opened for Snoop Dogg and kicked off the 2011 edition of Farm Aid. With Carnivále du Soul at the cavernous Uptown Theater, the collective makes a bid for a permanent position in the major leagues. Extensive prospect reports indicate that the ensemble is up to the challenge.”

“It’s no small feat to stand out in an 18-piece Afro-Cuban/funk/soul/hip-hop orchestra, but the ladies of the Hearts of Darkness have become one of its most conspicuous and most appealing elements. Brandy Gordon, Rachel Christia and Erica Townsend joined the band in 2009. “You don’t see many women fronting a band as large as ours,” Gordon said. “We try to bring a lot of energy to the shows. We help get the party started.” They do that by laying down background vocals, taking lead vocals and busting some slick dance moves.”

“Farm Aid will be the third time this year the Hearts of Darkness have opened a show for a national touring act. In June, they opened for Huey Lewis & the News at Starlight Theatre; in July, they opened for rapper Snoop Dogg. They also played at Kanrocksas last weekend. The shows gave the band a chance to perform before a large number of people. Even in a big venue like Starlight, they sounded as polished and prepared as a regular touring band.”

“Kansas City’s Hearts of Darkness ignited the mood during its short set at Farm Aid with its irresistible mix of funk, R&B, Afro-beat and hip-hop. It started plenty of swaying and dancing amid the few thousand or so in the place at 1:30 p.m.”

“The man billed as "The King of Rap" was upstaged and outclassed by a relatively unheralded Kansas City-based band Tuesday at Crossroads KC. Before rap star Snoop Dogg made a brief appearance, Afrobeat act Hearts of Darkness displayed boundless passion and energy, qualities largely absent in the headliner's perfunctory performance. All fifteen members of Hearts of Darkness played as if they had something to prove. Backed by a DJ and a couple of hype men, Snoop Dogg seemed to be coasting on past achievements. Although most of its area gigs are in small clubs, the expansive stage at Crossroads KC suited Hearts of Darkness' thunderous grooves. The band's potent blend of African sounds and American R&B and hip hop seemed to acquire additional power at the outdoor venue's grounds. Highlighted by a five-piece horn section, Hearts of Darkness' transcendent dance music was dazzling.”

“The band presents itself as a fierce and fine-tuned machine playing a bristling and percussive mix of Afrobeat, jazz, funk/soul and hip-hop. HoD's music comprises many moving parts, each with its own discrete design and purpose, yet its arrangements never get jammy or overwhelm the music's primal mission: to lay down a groove that will make a big crowd dance, seemingly involuntarily at times. You almost have to concentrate on not moving to prevent yourself from responding to the groove. It was easy to watch the entire two-hour show and feel like this is a band that could easily jump into some heavy regional or national prominence, one that could absolutely steal the show at a jam band festival, for example. The big boys in the music industry ought to take note. Shows like this is where long-term loyalty begins.”

“The highest praise that can be heaped on the stellar new self-titled recording by Hearts of Darkness is that the document successfully captures much of the excitement of the eighteen-piece band's live performances. The album crackles with energy. By the time I was born the heyday of Kansas City jazz was already decades past. As I noted in 2009, however, using roughly the same instrumentation as the legendary jazz bands of the '20s and '30s Hearts of Darkness evoke the vitality of that era. While a few local musicians specialize in a throwback style, their work is inevitably imbued with a sense of nostalgia. Loosely rooted in the afrobeat sound of Fela, Hearts of Darkness recall the lively sensibility of Benny Moten while crafting a completely contemporary approach.”

“Killer funk with a definite Afro style – a wonderful big band from the KC scene, and just about the freshest thing we've heard to come out of that city in a long long time! The grooves are super-tight, but never uptight – and although things start in Fela-type territory, they quickly stretch out to embrace a range of funky modes – using some especially sharp horn charts to carve out some rich new territory, and mixing in these great funky moments at the bottom of the rhythms! Vocals are by a few different singers, which further keeps things fresh – and you can definitely rank these guys right up there with the best of the contemporary Afro Funk scene! Titles include "Terror Flu", "Distress Call", "Step First Look Last", "Space Age", "Debt On Me", and "Unplug Yourself".”

“Hearts of Darkness has evolved from its original Afrobeat classification, but the root elements remain: Les Izmore's socially responsible lyrics; women backup singers trilling call-and-response vocals; a seven-piece horn section; and four percussionists working a djembe, a shakere, congas and a drum kit. The infectious grooves are beautifully mastered. The ambitious outfit has set a benchmark for local live music.”

“Hearts of Darkness, KC’s 17-piece Afrobeat all-star group, has without question produced some of the brightest moments in local music this year. HOD concerts have become some of KC’s most celebrated events, with recent performances taking place at the Crossroads Music Festival, the Pistol Social Club anniversary show, Halloween, Thanksgiving weekend and New Year’s Eve. Using the songs, polyrhythmic arrangements and politcal consciousness of Fela Kuti as a jumping off point, the group has since come into its own as a songwriting force. Songs like “America = One!” call U.S. imperialism into question, and the explosive “Unplug Yourself” is a melodic call to shut off electronic devices, detach from media programming, and just enjoy the moment.”

“For a white American, it takes a pair of gourds to start an Afrobeat band — and about 16 or 17 musician friends with soul for spinal fluid. What began as an experimental jam session turned into a zombie-funk militia unit as the group's numbers doubled. And soon, local dance floors were under attack. With the addition of original tunes to the repertoire and charismatic hip-hop MC Les Izmore signing on as frontman, the Hearts are beating strong — and repping KC hard — as one of the only Afrobeat bands in the country.”