Various Artists: Om 15

The sunny San Francisco dance label takes a fresh approach to the anniversary compilation, ends up with a near-essential release.

Various Artists

Om 15

Subtitle: Celebrating 15 Years of Om Records
Label: Om
US Release Date: 2009-07-21
UK Release Date: 2009-08-10

It doesn't seem that long since Om released a triple-disc set celebrating its tenth anniversary. That straightforward retrospective compilation came out in late 2005. But you can't really fault the folks at Om for using a little fuzzy math. 2009 does mark the 15th year of releases for the San Francisco-based label. That's like a century for an independent, dance music-based imprint. Over those years, Om has become a major influence on the house, nu-jazz, soul, downtempo, and pop music scenes. It has released albums by Mark Farina, Kaskade, and Andy Caldwell, among others. Though it has diversified and launched several offshoots, Om has never seemed to be spread too thinly. That sun-drenched, crisp, generally upbeat Om sound has remained at the center of it all.

This is also the case for Om 15. But, rather than churn out another compilation, which would have been redundant by nature, Om has taken a far more interesting approach. It's put together this two-disc set of all-new, unreleased music, featuring label veterans as well as promising prospects. The entire 26-track set is separated into two halves. "Night" features the more uptempo, club-oriented tracks, while "Day" is the chilled-out, downtempo flipside. In this case, the approach isn't a bad one at all, because what strikes you right away is the sheer diversity of sounds and styles on both discs. From the chunky funk of J-Boogie's "Together" at the start of Disc One to the abstract, ambient techno of Christian Prommer's "Inner Space" at the end of Disc Two, nearly every track on Om 15 carves out its own territory without going off the reservation.

Om has always been at its best when playing around the edges of more clearly-defined, non-electronica genres such as soul, jazz, and pop. That's the case here as well. Right after "Together", Sygaire & Defcon's "The Latest" offers up some smooth, uptempo R&B while issuing a command to "rock the whole damn place to the sound of the drum and the bass". That's pretty much the idea of Disc One, and it follows through brilliantly. Are you in for some hip-hop breaks? Then here's Daz-I-Kue & Solparlor's slammin' "C'mon Rock". Is the staccato synth pulse of late-'80s party on Ibiza more your thing? Sprit Catcher's "Beezy Operator" will do the trick. Throbbing Detroit-influenced house and techno are Nacho Marco's "Move You" and Fish Go Deep's dreamy "No Applause". Three are disco numbers as well, with Smokin' Mirrors' sexy "Set It Off" the highlight, cowbell included! Amidst all the highlights, several less dynamic numbers are lackluster by comparison. In all, though, Disc One serves as one of Om's best-ever compilations.

That's not to say Disc Two is an afterthought. Far from it. Some of Om's more laid back releases have a tendency of slipping into pleasant but insubstantial blandness. The 14 tracks here, however, continue to explore meaningful sounds and textures while providing a nice counterpoint to the thumping first disc. Idan K & the Movement of Rhythm employs the breathy, soulful vocals of Melanie Hitchcock on the dubby reggae number "Like a Tree". Eighty Mile Beach, one of Om's first signings, returns to the label with the stoned-out folk-pop of "Las Jacarandas". Delicate, shimmering soul is bountiful as well. Fans of the Roots will be pleased to know that ?uestlove's sister, Donn T, provides one of the set's highlight with her sublime "Kisses". Atjazz's "Please You" takes the same head-in-the-clouds atmosphere and adds a techno rhythm.

On Disc Two, the juxtaposition of different styles can jar a bit more than it does on Disc One. For example, the dense, abstract techno of Alland Byallo's "Head First Omega" is followed by the acoustic blues of Jade Alexis's "Microphone Hands". Frankie Flowerz' disco-soul "Groove on 98" gives way to the panoramic dreampop of Belle Fast Radio's "Vacation". Stylistically, the tracks don't jive, but a little jarring isn't a bad thing. Here, the quality is such that the effect is like being given a carefully-assembled yet eclectic mixtape.

Om's past, and the legacy created by it, is already well-documented. A great idea whose execution lives up to its billing, Om 15 shows the label is looking to the future, and that future sounds fresh.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.