- When CD copies of the latest Omar-S full-length arrived at Hard Wax recently, the Berlin institution, famous for their quirky record descriptions, appeared to be stopped dead in its tracks. The product page featured no "big room" advisory or "don alert" or even a "TIP!" They went with just one word: "House."
Hard Wax doesn't exactly do hard-hitting criticism, but their brevity here raises an interesting point. How much is there left to say about Alex O. Smith? The Detroit producer has remained enviably consistent since his debut ten years ago: his style has been more or less unwavering, and with the exception of a lone 12-inch for Theo Parrish's Sound Signature in 2009, every single one of his slamming analog club tunes has come out through his own FXHE. There's certainly variety in Omar-S's oeuvre (and a lot to be admired about his thoroughly DIY operation), but there aren't really surprises or moments of reinvention. You wouldn't mistake his music or aesthetic for anyone else's, but "house" pretty much covers it.
Where the title of his last album, It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It, conveys the extent to which he owns what he does, the title of his latest, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, suggests he's not likely to budge from it. That pretty much plays out across the album. Thank You is stuffed with some very high-quality house music, but it's not the sort of statement dance artists often make when they tackle the format. It's just more Omar-S than we typically get at any given moment, and all of it falls within his back catalog's standard deviation in terms of quality. You'll find some extremely good tracks on here, like the hard-edged "I Just Want" (mixed by Luke Hess) and the gleefully lo-fi "Hellter Shelter." You may also find yourself skipping through a few less-than-considered moments. Notably, these come when Smith lets collaborators enter the fray. On "Rewind," his singer-on-call L'Renee's well-performed vocals sound awkwardly naked in the mix, leaving you relieved once the brittle machines take over fully. D. Tayler's piano jamming on "The Shit Baby," though perfectly competent, feels a little slapdash.
"I wanted this to be a good listening Album from beginning to end which it is BTW!!" Smith told Juno Plus earlier this year when Thank You was first announced. And with a few surprisingly slick transitions and faux-tough guy sketches thrown in, you can see what he had in mind. Still, I'd contest this statement: it clocks in at well over an hour, and though it more or less covers his stylistic range, all the scratchy drums and dusty keys start to bleed together about halfway through. Omar-S has produced some genuinely club-transcending tracks, "Psychotic Photosynthesis" and "Here's Your Trance, Now Dance!!" chief among them, but even his best moments here aren't likely to blow minds outside of a DJ set. So at the end of the day, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself is just house—albeit a bounty that only this guy could deliver.
01. I'll Bring U Ah Lil Sumpin Back
02. I Just Want
03. Air Of The Day
04. Be Yoself
06. The Shit Baby (CP-1 Played By D.Taylor)
07. Hellter Shelter
10. Thank U 4 Letting Me Be Myself
11. Ready My Black Asz
12. Messier Sixty Eight
14. Its Money In The D