Review: Omar-S

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

In interviews, Detroit's Alex Omar Smith likes to portray himself as something of a dance-music outsider. He talks about his day job on a car-factory assembly line; he says he enjoys illegal street racing as a hobby; he professes not to know who "Ricardo Vi-vi—whatever the fuck he's called" is. (We believe he's referring to techno icon Ricardo Villalobos.) There's just one small flaw in the image he presents: As Omar-S, he's spent the last six years creating some of the most stunning electronic beats coming out of the Motor City. Many of them are collected on the latest installation of the Fabric mix-CD series, a set consisting solely of his own tracks, a tactic that Villalobos himself employed on his 2007 Fabric set.

That outsider status probably does have some merit—the music's sometimes otherworldly quality is unmistakably Smith's alone—but it makes occasional sideways allusions to the work of similar artists like Carl Craig, Larry Heard and Theo Parrish. Simlar to Craig's, the music is imbued with an elegant intensity; much as with Heard's work, it has a certain delicacy despite that intensity; and like the music of Parrish, for whom Smith does studio-engineering work, it could be considered pure soul music, despite its electronic underpinnings. One can sense that this is music that comes straight from the heart. "Simple Than Sorry," with its sharp-cornered arrangement and scrapping ambience, is evocative of that assembly line, while "Psychotic Photosynthesis" possesses a devotional, almost hymnal edge. Some tracks, such as "Strider's World," build to intense crescendos before crashing back down upon themselves. Others pay homage to Smith's Motown roots; "Day," for instance, is a bouncy, infectious cut that employs a sampled snippet from the Supremes classic "Come See About Me." And album closer "Set Me Out," for all its repeated-chord simplicity, is one of the most gorgeous love songs that any genre's produced in recent years.

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