Onra is a shapeshifting, French, electronic musician born Arnaud Bernard. As electronic music continues to pivot and shift year over year and even month over month, Onra’s new record is a future funk, Balearic beat, synthwave jam called Nobody Has to Know.
Onra started out with a series of records and EP called
Chinoiseries and has continued the series on and off for a decade. It’s a found sound, plunderphonics, instrumental hip-hop vibe owing equally to Avalanches and J Dilla. He has cascaded back and forth between that and smoother synth funk recordings since. His newest is for sure his most crowd-pleasing and as well as his smoothest.
If you aren’t familiar with Balearic beat, it’s named after some islands off the coast of Spain that apparently are so chill and vibey that they caused their house DJ’s to slow things down from 120 to 85 BPM and oscillate the rhythms from straight to slightly funky. Onra hits the genre well adding his French influences. Highlight “No Question” sounds like Diet Daft Punk but is a welcome song given the half decades between their records.
“The Jam” takes Justice’s hard bass synths and slows them down like they left the synthesizers out in the sun. The song is three minutes long but has the ideas for about 30 seconds. It’s much closer to a sketch or Dam Funk b-side than A material. “Freak” sounds like one of those songs Prince would have written when he had eaten too much McDonald’s and microwave popcorn at 6:00 am and just needed to go to bed. The beat is too strong and propulsive to hold the groove of the saxophone. “Wait a Minute” can’t touch the grooviness of future funk of earlier artists like
The spoken word opening “4U” is a nice break but the track can’t bring anything more than background funkiness. Electronic music by its nature has to be something new or improved to prove its need.
Nobody Has to Know by Onra is chill, fun, but it fails to strike as new or improved on anything.
Album closer “All the Time” breaks the mold with subtle harmonies and synth movements bringing to mind those awesome Toro Y Moi records before he left his bedroom. Grab “Secretly”, “No Question” and “All the Time” for a playlist and go listen to Daft Punk instead. Perhaps Onra should stop chasing genres every two to three years and dig into a sound of his own, he clearly has chops and the best moments here could be fashioned into something much stronger if it was more personal.