Music

Various Artists: Om 100

Maurice Bottomley

Various Artists

Om 100

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2002-08-06
UK Release Date: 2002-08-26
Amazon
iTunes

One hundred releases and it's time to celebrate. One third of San Francisco's mighty triumvirate (Ubiquity and Naked Music being the other two) show that when it comes to depth, melody, soulfulness, and style -- the West Coast is now America's home of discerning dance music. Being the forward looking company they are, Om have chosen to mark the occasion with a set of previously unissued tracks -- some new, some re-mixes of recent winners. The result is two CDs of characteristically cool but stylistically diverse tunes which will keep the converted happy and, if there is any justice, will open the ears of those who, bizarrely, refuse to accept that Om and their fellow Californians are making 21st century soul of the highest order.

A quick glance at the cast (and caliber) of performers should suffice. King Kooba, Afro-Mystic, Johnny Fiasco, Pimp Rekker, Mark Grant, Kaskade, Rithma,Soulstice, Andy Caldwell, J Boogie, Ming and FS, People Under the Stairs, Scuba (King Britt), Mark Farina, John Howard, Fred Everything, West Magnetic, Landslide, and Juan Atkins. From living legends to newcomers, from innovators to the hideously under-rated -- here they are, all doing what they do best.

You want hip-hop that restores your faith in hip-hop? People Under the Stairs lead the way. In fact, hip-hop beats underpin many of the album's finer moments, for instance Ming and FS' quirky and exotic "Misdirected". Fancy some house that is deep yet immediately engaging? Try Kaskade's "I Can't Wait" or Johnny Fiasco's "Take 5". Or how about DJ/producers who still know that emotional power doesn't involve just banging it in hard? Marques Wyatt and Mark Farina are on hand. Most of all, if you want to hear this year's best soul record (that probably won't get classed as a soul record), then have a listen to Soulstice's "All Right".

That particular track will find a ready audience with UK modern soul types but should make its mark in the wider waters of urban styles. Afro-Mystic, Soulstice, and a number of other acts are making "neo-soul" that is more convincing and less retro-dependent than much of the more touted "neo" fare. A bit too fragile for R&B floors perhaps, but more substantial than the wispy imagery attached to much of this product might indicate. "All Right" is a well-written, positive song that boasts a mid-tempo groove and gorgeous female vocals. Any soul fan should immediately add it to his or her collection. That you get Afro-Mystic's Omega Brown delivering "Natural" with real attack and conviction or Pimp Rekker's conscious-funk masterpiece "In Time" on the same set should be regarded as something akin to a multiple lottery win.

As to the generic mix, one gets tired of recounting the variants of hyphenated soul, jazz, house etc. combinations that make up the music Om produce. Suffice it to say that CD one is more house-based and CD two more breakbeat-influenced. Apart from that, the whole marvelous mélange is a pluracial take on the best black music forms of recent years, all given a digital twist and a lot of care and attention. What it isn't is snoozy lounge or college-boy trip-hop. Om's reputation for blunted stupor-muzak is undeserved and their recent output has actually been decidedly lively. The most chilled-out cut is Scuba's "Beauty and Truth" which is so seductive you could stand about forty minutes in its relaxing company.

Each outing is almost similarly polished and classy. If that is a criticism in some quarters, then so be it. High production values, mellow grooves, and solid musicality still have a place in many people's hearts. Om knows this and can easily ride the slurs. Within their general remit there is a place for Juan Atkins' Techno experiments, J Boogie's cinematic dubbiness and People Under the Stairs revamped-old schoolery. Depending on your own background, you will probably be drawn either to the more soul/dance side or to the hip-hop/downtempo elements, but if you have any leanings at all to the less obvious aspects of contemporary club culture, you should be able to negotiate all 22 (unmixed) tracks without much use of the skip button.

Seven years have passed since Om's first release and this landmark. My betting is that it will be a much shorter expanse of time before we enjoy Om 200. In between, we can look forward to plentiful amounts of cool grooves and much future-facing funkiness. For now, just enjoy the wide range of aural delights impeccably served up on this very enticing menu.

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
9
TV

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
9

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
7

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
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image