Long before dropping his debut LP, Chanticleer Trü—frontman of the retro-futurist soul outfit Chanti Darling—had built a solid Portland fanbase and earned plenty of buzz for his soaring falsetto and visually stunning performances. But this week Chanti Darling is finally dropping RNB Vol. 1 on local record label Tender Loving Empire. In an interview with the Mercury in June, Trü explained that the album—like much of the R&B genre—centers on romance, but Chanti Darling’s focus is on creating music that pairs stellar soul vocals with a vibe that’s distinctly lighthearted.
Having been raised on R&B, jazz, gospel, and his mother’s boogie funk collection, Trü went on to study opera, composition, and musical theater. Before he started the Chanti Darling project, he even tried his hand at rock music as the lead singer of post-phunk band Magic Mouth. Trü’s eclectic, well-rounded musical background has culminated in a distinct sound inspired by the lesser-known heroes of R&B: Patrice Rushen, Cheryl Lynn, and Morris Day, among others.
Written over three years and recorded in Portland’s Zip Zap and Eyrst studios, RNB Vol. 1 pulls from disco, house music, new jack swing, and electro-soul. If you’ve seen a Chanti Darling show, there’s a good chance you’ll be replaying their contagious, groove-based choreography in your head (and trying to imitate it) while bumping these 10 tracks.
Trü’s debut offers a slew of highly danceable bops, including opener “Boogie.503,” lead single “St*rs,” and the ’90s-tinged “On the Fly (Nu Jck).” There are several collaborations with producer Damon Boucher, Natasha Kmeto (“Running”), and the Last Artful, Dodgr (“Casual,” which would be a satisfying soundtrack to the end of a really good fourth date).
It’s hard to decide whether RNB Vol. 1 sounds like something from a few decades ago or from the not-so-distant future—if disco was born from the need for POC and LGBTQ escapism in the politically tumultuous ’70s, Chanti Darling’s multi-part RNB is providing that same relief in the current moment with one of the most fun and fully realized projects to ever come out of Portland.