Various Artists: Om:10 -- A Decade of Future Music

John Bergstrom

Ten years is like 100 in electronica time. And, as this soulful, three-disc set shows, most of them were good ones for Om.

Various Artists

Om:10 -- a Decade of Future Music

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2006-01-24
UK Release Date: 2006-01-30
Amazon affiliate

Christopher Smith's San Francisco-based Om Records came to life at an interesting time for electronic dance music. In 1995, the "electronica" movement, spearheaded mostly by British acts, was at its apex; in '95 and '96 you couldn't crack open an American music mag without finding an electronica rundown, subgenre by subgenre. But, as with nearly every media-created sensation, by the time it was verging on mass acceptance, most of the best electronica records had already been released.

It was like a beloved cult indie band getting signed by a major label just in time for its declining years, but on a much larger scale. You could argue that the scene never recovered.

Onto that scene came Smith and Om, with a fresh, soulful take on house music and, more importantly, a fresh lease on the independent label philosophy. Om never really had to recover, but it has survived -- a decade is light years in electronica time. And this three-disc set provides solid evidence of why Om is arguably the only American dance label to have made a lasting international impact during that time.

The label has always maintained a varied roster of artists, but with this in common: Om releases have always sounded crisp, clean, and smooth. While that immaculate production can leave a lot of electroncia sounding vapid, for Om it's always been infused with a natural warmth. Listening to any of these 39 tracks, made by artists from various locales, it's not difficult to picture the sun rising over the Golden Gate Bridge on a balmy day. Perhaps no other label has more effectively and seamlessly blended jazz and electronic music. It's that warmth; that effortless, soulful feel, that is Om's signature more than anything else. It makes the best of these tracks outstanding and the most mundane of them sound at the very least genuine and pleasant.

Each of Om:10's three discs gets its own heading. There's one for house and one for downtempo; these feature some rare and unreleased tracks. The third disc is reserved for "classics", regardless of subgenre. It would be interesting to know how the artists themselves feel about the categorization, but the format works pretty well for getting a fix on the label's strengths and weaknesses. The best part is that it's wide open for picking among the discs and making your own micro-compilations.

As such, the "house" disc is the most consistently engaging, from Chuck Love's sweet "Soul Symphony" to Colette's "What Will She Do for Love" (which has to be a favorite of Madonna -- just listen) to the highlight, Kaskade's epic, blissed-out "Everything". The continuous mix works well, and the only dud here is Rithma's awkward "Let's Get Sick".

In contrast, you might find yourself reaching for the "Next" button more than once on the "downtempo" disc. Nothing here is bad, but the tracks struggle to form a collective identity. Starting out with Kaskade's very slick R&B cut "Yeah Right" doesn't help; you have to get to King Kooba's soothing, spaced-out "Static Society" before things really feel downtempo. You get some brooding lounge-jazz from Colossus and some crickets (!) from Rithma (one of several artists to appear on multiple discs), but the only revelation is Greenskeepers' excellent "Back in the Wild" -- Fender Rhodes; Leslie'd, mope-rock-sounding vocals; and smooth harmonies combine for what you just have to call Beach Boys-trip-hop.

Is the "classics" label on disc three a bit presumptuous? This isn't exactly FFRR or Trax! we're talking about here. Still, there are some very good cuts. Anyone familiar with Mark Farina's Mushroom Jazz series, basically Om's bread-and-butter, will immediately recognize Blue Boy's downbeat, scat-happy "Remember Me". And this disc's midsection is pretty timeless: You get Kaskade's bassline-disguised-as-house-anthem "What I Say", Farina's melancholy "Dream Machine", and Om's biggest hook ever in Ming & FS's unforgettable "Madhattan Bound". That track and the overlooked People Under the Stairs provide Om:10's only nod toward hip-hop, a bit disappointing given the Deep Concentration series helped put the label on the map.

By the time you get to Terra Diva's glistening slow-groover "Lethal" -- so good it makes you look past another Isaac Hayes "Walk on By" sample -- you're convinced that, yeah, Om is pretty special. Of course you could complain that no definitive Om collection would omit Kaskade's "Right Time". And you could say that the label has never been, musically, exactly groundbreaking or risky. Or you could claim that the best, most concise Om collection remains 2003's superlative United Nations of Future Music Volume 01. You'd be right on all those counts. But with so much good music on hand (and at under $20 US), you'd be better off just enjoying.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.