Omar-S - Fabric 45: Detroit

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  • After years of cultivating a dedicated following with his productions, all of the pieces moved into alignment at the end of 2007 for Omar-S, culminating with the ecstatic plateaus of "Psychotic Photosynthesis." Omar was exactly what a lot of people wanted, and he had every sympathetic ear right where he needed them: Here was the real thing, a J Dilla for house music, as rough, raw and muthafucking talented as his catalogue. So, with talent and hype having waxed and polished the frame, enter Fabric to hand the man a blank canvas. And what has Omar done? He's grabbed it—with his chin up, one eyebrow raised, and maybe a cheeky middle finger hidden behind his back. There's a lot of investment here: Of Fabric in Omar, of Omar in himself and of the moment in Fabric, Omar and Detroit, here to save the world from bland eurodeep/tech/house with raw "funk" and "soul," all marked with the unassailable stamp of Detroit authenticity. The contents and framing of the mix make this a big play on two counts. Omar's mix for Fabric is 100% Omar-S … and Omar has also subtitled his mix "Detroit" (in a way that no one from Toronto or Adelaide would): so there's the double sense of making a solo play for the crown and the legacy. Fabric offers to represent Omar, and Omar offers to represent… himself: 100% Omar-S, 100% Detroit. But don't think it's a calculated play. Have you read this guy's interviews? This is someone with balls (macho implications of metaphor fully and graphically intended) supporting talent (also amply on display) rather than prudence supporting careful calculation. So there we have it: a big play, a strong gesture and a whole lot of exposure. And the thing is, he almost pulls it off. What we have is an average DJ mix and an extremely worthwhile artist showcase. The problem with this as a mix is that there's no sense of purposive movement, at least for the first half. While each individual mix interacts without fuss, there's no sense of slow, unfolding revelation: each track segues out of the last without giving a sense of build or swerve. "Psychotic Photosynthesis" just drops in at track ten, then plays through, then fades into "The Maker," an outstanding Detroit houser from 2006 with a great vocal. From here on in, we do get some sense of dynamic tension between tracks and builds over the program, too. That, and it's basically just killer track after killer track (here's where the showcase bit comes in): from 2005's "A-Victim" to "Oasis One" (2004), to "Blade Runner" (2006), to "Day" (2004), then finally to "Set It Out" (2003), which cribs the vocal from Midway's song of the same name from '83, closing the mix with a perfect representation of "Motown Minimal" as Omar once described his Oasis project. If you've never heard much of Omar's past work, this mix is an outstanding overview of a talented, idiosyncratic beatsmith. But if you're a fan or devotee, you won't find much you haven't discovered already. (Very little here is "new," even though all the tracks have been re-edited.) As much as all the material here is, without a doubt, worth showcasing to a world that might not have had a chance to hear it, I also worry that this is an end rather than a beginning, a "greatest hits" compilation. That so little of the material here is fresh, that so little of it looks outside of itself, and that Omar wasn't even aware that certain other key producers had also handed in a Fabric mix composed entirely of their own (entirely new) work speaks of someone who should spend less time in cocky self-centric satisfaction and more time looking outside themselves at the world around them. The limitations of this mix are all of Omar's own making, just like its strengths, and Omar is going have to push outside them to produce in the future what he has shown us, in the past, to be eminently capable of. I hope this mix is a threshold, not a culmination.
  • Tracklist
      01. Omar-S - Polycopter 02. Omar-S - Flying Gorgars 03. Omar-S - Strider's World 04. Omar-S - Oasis Four 05. Omar-S - Crusin Conant 06. Omar-S - U 07. Omar-S - Oasis 13 ½ 08. Omar-S - 1 Out Of 853 Beats 09. Omar-S - Simple Than Sorry 10. Omar-S - Psychotic Photosynthesis 11. Omar-S - The Maker 12. Omar-S - A Victim 13. Omar-S - Oasis One 14. Omar-S - Blade Runner 15. Omar-S - Day 16. Omar-S - Set Me Out