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Various Artists

Om: Miami

(Om Records; US: 7 Mar 2006; UK: 6 Mar 2006)


You think Miami, you think of several things: You think bright sun and dark sunglasses. Swimsuits. Loud clothing. Om: Miami invokes all those images with some deep grooves and steady beats. It sounds good and at its best is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s inevitable that at times it sounds superficial, but that superficiality still holds it down a notch, especially given that it’s a continuous mix.

Sometimes - a lot of the time - variety in dance music is a good thing. But, after Om: Miami‘s opening shot of full-on, dirty funk, you’re hoping the rest of the mix follows suit and turns into a bass-heavy, low-ridin’ cruise around town. Chuck Love’s “Livin’ at Night” is an irresistible electro-funk throwback, complete with squishy synth-bass, Kraftwerk bleeps and blips, and plenty of wah-wah. Andy Caldwell’s “Don’t You Love Me” ups the tempo and sends the bass even lower, adding female harmonies and silly Syndrums for extra ‘80s effect.

But just as you’re about to break out the pastel leisure suits, the focus shifts to another era with a pair of disco-influenced tracks. Neither one is bad, but they sound soft compared with what’s come before. Suddenly, the lowrider is in danger of blowing a tire, and it comes dangerously close with Afro-Mystik’s “Miracles”. This intellectual-sounding samba is sun-drenched alright, but just isn’t what this trip is all about. And so it goes … you get some freaky standouts; you get some too-tasteful paceholders.

As remixed by Justin Martin, Collette’s take on Jam & Lewis’ “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” snaps proceedings back to attention with an incessant rhythm, thudding tom hits, and hypnotic synths. Iz & Diz’s “Magnificent” is Barry White doing UK Garage, smoothly seductive. The best thing Om: Miami has going, however, is Rithma’s “I Wish I Could Be Beautiful”. Acoustic rhythm guitar lends the song a spacious, poppy feel, very Prince-via-Outkast. Yes, there’s a line about “Big-ass titties”, and yes, it’s all in good fun, with plenty of goofy synth touches and bass growls. And PC Synergy’s soulful “Puttin’ It Out There” makes sure there are no hard feelings, presenting social consciousness as a good idea rather than condescending dogma. This message is perfectly feet-friendly.

So, if you’re keeping score, out of 13 tracks that’s five real standouts, one real dud, and seven tracks that don’t swing the balance either way. Of course, its all about Om getting its roster out there, and in that sense it’s done a pretty good job of showcasing the diversity and overall quality. But the idea of a continuous mix - establishing, modulating, and manipulating a sound, mood, emotion - is at odds with the comp-as-point-of-entry setup. Still, if you’re talking capitalism, a midline list price makes Om: Miami an attractive destination.


John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.

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