New York-bred DJ Onionz may have a great rep, but Future Acoustics certainly isn’t a great album. That is, it isn’t great to just listen to outside of the club dancefloors, where it undoubtedly works much better than playing in your living room or bedroom, where it can only spin away desperately, climaxing ad nauseam. Some records were made for the discos. This is certainly one of them.
DJ Onionz cut his teeth in the ’80s, spinning hip-hop platters at New York’s Park Parties before moving onto famous local clubs like Camouflage and Pallads. He spun out his funky house sets, winning over underground fans, club owners, and fellow DJs alike, branching out to other cities such as Boston where Onionz met up with John Debo and Washington DC where he played with Scott Henry. Adam X and Frankie Bones also crossed paths with Onionz. And in 1995, DJ Onionz became one of the founding members of the Chocolate Factory, an ensemble of turntablists who spun the wax for everyone from New York to Los Angeles and back.
Now, Onionz has his own little album on Mannequin Odd.
While Onionz’ mixing skills are impressive, it’s the song selection here that wears greatly on one’s ears and feet. Future Acoustics is an excursion into generic house and dub that features plenty of 4/4 beats and other expected house elements and very little else. The album is continuously mixed to provide optimum enjoyment, but oft-times some of these tunes just sound like the same song at times. A bit of stylistic diversity couldn’t have hurt Onionz on this disc.
Things kick off with the prototypical house beats of Alaska Soul’s “The Message” and “Saturday Night Soul’s “Feel the Wizdom”. Both cuts feature the same heavy, easy to follow beats and pulsing bass notes. The transition that Onionz creates between the tracks is seamless, but it doesn’t sound like it could have been difficult to achieve, so similar are these tracks. The main problem lies both in their lengths (both clock in at over seven minutes) and their vocal loops. On “The Message”, we are treated to a faceless bunch sing the line “We’ve got a message in our music” over and over, sounding like some cheesy generic Muzak choral group. After that, the overused “diva” female vocal arrives, chanting “There’s a message / There’s a message / In the sound” over the top of the first pile of vocals. It gets old fast, as does the sudden muting of the entire track, another element that crops up in “Feel the Wizdom”.
In that song, the annoying vocal loops are repeated once more, only this time the “message” is “You can feel the wisdom”. Over and over the line repeats, along with the keyboard riffs that aren’t any more special than the bland vocals. The monotony is broken up somewhat by the shorter “Nocturnal Affairs” by group of same name that sports some funky sampler and horn loops, but even they begin to wear out their welcome by the time you’ve heard them play the same notes for the 20th time or so.
DJ Onionz supplies his own music making on the tracks “Hold Onto Your Love”, “Rods Groove”, and “Montuno Acido”. “Hold Onto Your Love” continues the lush kind of beats found in “Nocturnal Affairs”, but supplies another faceless vocalizer (T. Dillard) who sings a boring tune about showing up at his girlfriend’s door with “flowers and candy”. “Rods Groove” goes down just as rough at eight-and-a-half minutes. It’s seemingly split into two distinct sections, but both of them share another infuriating wordless vocal sample, some tinkling percussive swirls, and a beat that gets tiresome two minutes into the track. The same beat problem affects “Montuno Acido”, featuring a staccato synth line and a Latin-y house piano that gets stuck in the mud early on.
In fact, the same can be said for nearly all the tracks here. Be it in Fatty Acid’s “Fatty Acid”, Joeski’s “Hustler’s Revenge”, or Powder Production’s “Cuban Fire”, the fact remains that there’s just too much repetition going on here. Too many locked vocal loops that go nowhere, static beats that can’t seem to slide out of 4/4 no matter what, and annoying vocal parts that don’t add anything to the mix other than being just another grating element to contend with. Let’s face it: this House burned down long ago.
DJ Onionz may be a well-respected and well-liked mixmaster, but he has a way to go before making an enjoyable CD. As stated earlier, this kind of thing might be great for dancing to in a large crowd, but it does absolutely nothing for the personal experience. Not even for the occasional mindless drive around town. For all of its credentials and supposed prowess, Future Acoustics seems horribly entrenched in the house grooves of the past.