- The porous community that developed in LA around Low End Theory might be rooted in hip-hop, but its best moments come from the fringes. Though the scene is not the juggernaut it once was, many of its key players are still trucking on, one of whom is Tim Conley, better known as MAST. A Brainfeeder associate and backup man to mercurial singer RYAT, Conley has an appetite for free jazz and the music that surrounded that movement. On Omni, his debut album, he wears that influence on his sleeve. A smear of boom-bap, guitar noodling and spiritual crescendoes, Omni is a sprawling record that drips inspiration from each of its blotchy ink splatters.
Like most albums that surface from this LA cohort, Omni is a collage. Conley shifts from one idea to the next at a moment's notice, drawing from a palette that's earthier than usual—the rich tones of live instruments blend with processed sounds, songs bleed together, and the beats are padded rather than crunchy. The flow is anchored by meaty tracks that provide grounding between passages of drift. "The Waters" is one of these. It packs a staggering amount into three and a half minutes—guitars that spread out in spindly figures, pleasant keys and a rhythm that crashes like a battering ram. It sounds like the foreshadow to some great disaster, and sure enough rapper Jeremiah Jae comes out of nowhere to bellow venom over the climax.
Not all of Omni is so chaotic. The RYAT collaboration "Until As You Are" is a fluid ballad that starts off like an old Hollywood movie theme before it settles into gorgeous psychedelia. "Dark Matter" shows off those jazz allegiances in a more serene way, with guitar licking at the rhythm's nooks and crannies (fans of Weather Report take note). "Ascent" is a poem of acoustic guitar tones, "Revolt" stands its ground with big "Army Of Me"-style drums, and "The Great Wave" is a good old-fashioned head nodder that should placate any Brainfeeder devotee.
Even with such a varied sound palette (clock the glittering glissandos on the title track for yet another angle of the MAST prism), Omni finds cohesion in Conley's unusual sense of melody and songwriting, which allows it to succeed where so many similar releases get caught up in their own hodgepodge. Yet as different as Conley is from his peers, Omni is a record that could have only come from the LA scene, proudly scatterbrained and restless. It might be made up of abstract patterns and unfamiliar shapes, but they fit together almost perfectly.
02. The Waters feat. Jeremiah Jae
05. Dark Matter
06. Ghost feat. Low Leaf
08. Red feat. Anna Wise
10. Until You Are Sound feat. RYAT
12. The Great Wave
13. Solar Sail
15. Wail Song