Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fabric 45 - Omar S -Detroit

By jove! Fabric have gone underground! They've ditched the limelight hoggers, the superstars, the zeitgeist and introversion is once again the flavour of the month in EC1. As much as it's still a cracking venue, responsible for many insane nights out and equally impressive CD releases, it wouldn't be unfair to say that the London institution has gone a bit more 'safe' in recent years, especially after being seduced by yellow plastic duck botherers O2 into opening Matter inside that pseudo-60s tribute to a diaphragm, the Millenium Dome, I mean The O2...

Instead of plodding down yet another well trodden path, the Fabric lot have roped in Detroit native Omar S to whip up something tasty for their latest mixtape. Little known outside Detroit, and less so inside it, Omar is something like the last bastion of underground Detroit, quietly going about his business (100 releases to date) without so much as even a myspazz page to shout about if from.

The mix is ambitiously a collection of Omar S productions and nothing else. This angle has already been tried, successfully, by Ricardo Villalobos and his hard drive full of minimalism. This time, the sleeve notes declare this to be 100% analog with "NO COMPUTER BULLSHIT PROGRAMS!", stuck in the past perhaps, like the famous city where it was conceived? Or an effort to rejig well worn drum machines and synths into something refreshing?

Well it's a bit of both really, oozing both classic Detroit and more contemporary vibes. Opener 'Polycopter' is insanely funky, spinning round and round and twisting inside out like some warped fairground ride while the church-like synths of 'Strider's World' float around like an unreleased score to The Omen. 'Crusin Conant' is stripped back twenty-first century minimalism that morphs into 'U', a slow ode to Joey Beltram's 'Energy Flash'. The slow blips of 'Oasis 13 1/2' play alongside a teasing beat that keeps hopping in and out, all the while a subtle electric piano tinkers in the background before oozing into the foreground

I'm a sucker for complex percussion and 'Simple Than Sorry' is fantastically fidgety, an imposing kick alongside what sounds like an army of tap dancing spiders in tandem with a scratch DJ and subtle synths that evoke Berlin. 'Psychotic Photosynthesis' is a futuristic groove that feels cold yet warm and infective at the same time. The sci-fi synth is a mind control tool from the future that really gnaws at the brain and is wonderfully juxtaposed with the jacking soul of 'The Maker'.

This is maybe an early choice though and the mix loses its way as the energy and vibe is lost in the transition into 'Oasis One', but such is the nature of Omar's work that it's only a momentary lapse. 'Oasis One' gently builds and develops in an almost orchestral manner - it really feels like every individual component of the track is being played by a seperate musician, all skilfully arranged by the feather light touch of the Detroit maestro. 'Blade Runner' is an old school delight that should be on the soundtrack to the eponymous film and the Unreleased Long Mix of 'Day' is more Chicago than Detroit with its bumpy bassline-driven rhythm something of an anomaly on this particular mix, not that anybody should mind.

Maybe it's pscyhological, after having read his sleeve notes, but there is definitely a rawness about Omar's sound. The beats sound incredibly organic and wholesome and in true testament to the spirit of Detroit he manages to squeeze some real warmth out of his machines. The only complaint is that it doesn't quite work as a mix. It's something I can't quite put my finger on but some of his records would probably sound better within a 'deeper' mix. Such is the scope and range of his work that in some ways it stifles the true potential of his productions. In a longer, more in-depth mix that really taps into the human psyche, such tracks as 'Psychotic Photosynthesis' would unleash their power and fill the dancefloor (or bedroom); rather they are forgotten about as the next track enters the fray.

This is no bad thing of course, and just one of the many nuances of the art of DJing. The Fabric press material proudly proclaims this "a stunning, arresting portrait of who he is as an artist, as a DJ, as an outsider, as a radical in an otherwise indifferent music world" and to be honest it's hard to disagree with that. Some of the more minimal tracks maybe wouldn't cut the mustard in a Hawtin set, but the boy has clearly got some talent, and considered as an artist album rather than a mix compilation, Omar S' effort is certainly deserving of its plaudits.

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