Omar-S
Just Ask The Lonely
FXHE
2005
B+



the first time you listen to Omar-S (Alex Smith), especially his debut solo album for his own FXHE Records, you're going to be confused. Which is to say, it's the possibly the most original avant techno/house album released so far this year. Take it from Smith himself: "You can not copy Omar-S style. You can only copy a song that has already been produced by Omar-S."

But if you didn't believe him, let's go straight to the magnetic tape: "Jit," the proper opening track on Just Ask The Lonely sounds for nearly a minute as though your headphones aren't properly inserted into the jack. A tiny melody that seems to be anchored with nothing but itself rides uncomfortably alongside a two-note digital noise. Finally the beat comes in to make sense of it all, pounding its way into your consciousness over the track's ten-minute length, while elements weave in and out of the mix, seemingly pulled out of thin air when the need arises.

Things aren't helped with "I Love U Alex," which rarely even brings a beat up high enough into the mix for listeners to hold on to. Instead a disembodied female singer repeats a few lines about her love for Alex, leaving for a cigarette break during the moments that the beat comes in. It's a neat trick, actually, and sidesteps the innate structure that pervades dance music's more epic compositions.

Much like Moodymann and Theo Parrish, Omar-S is concerned with things hidden and the idea of fading. As evidenced by tracks like "I Love U Alex" and "Jit," sleight of hand and the confusion of expectations is of paramount importance. But along with those two pillars of the Detroit music scene, Omar-S is not above giving in to the basic needs of the people when the mood strikes him.

Case in point is the title track, a ten-minute journey into the world of deep house that never once become boring even though nearly the only thing is changing is the timbre of the beat and the effects put on the piano loop. The same goes for the following track, "100% House," although it's slightly more maximal in feel there's hardly anything going on here in terms of actual elements.

To say that Smith, then, is a master of production is probably an understatement. Working with so few tracks and controlling the crowd is a challenge-just ask Daft Punk who did it so craftily on Homework, only to fall flat on their face with Human After All. And just like those Parisians and their debut album, Just Ask The Lonely should see receive rightful wider-spread recognition as one of Detroit's rising stars.


Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2005-04-01
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