Om Unit is one of those rare artists that simply can’t be pigeonholed to a particular genre. Despite d&b based releases on Metalheadz and Exit Records, he’s always added his own slant and toyed with the genre until it’s barely even recognizable. What’s more, roots in Hip Hop and Dubstep and collaborations with the likes of Machinedrum have further twisted his unique sound, treading effortlessly over genre boundary lines, all the while retaining his fresh take on music and recognizable sound. With that in mind, it makes sense that his debut LP, Threads which was released on Civil Music on the 28th October, is equally as varied and experimental as his back catalogue.
Suited to the album format, the fifteen tracks that make up Threads are much more than just a collection of tracks, instead fully taking on the album concept in a way that few electronic producers do. Playing like a retrospective of the influences, moments and tracks that have defined his career over the past decade, he twines them into a coherent path through his musical vision that carefully balances the dark with the light and the energetic with the mellow; something instantly apparent in the opening two tracks. The menacing key stabs of Folding Shadows punctuate a drum break that brings to mind visions of knives sharpening as they scrape together, the cold eyes of the track staring right through you from behind this unnerving movement. In contrast, The Silence opens with an ethereal piano before a warm bassline and smooth pads introduce the relaxing vocals from Jinadu.
Amongst the obvious jungle, dubstep and electronic influences, Om Unit’s Hip Hop background is also referenced throughout. Gone The Hero’s vocals over Just Sayin’ are fairly traditional of the genre, while the instrumental provided for them is anything but. Beautiful vocal harmonies and delicate harps form the basis of an instrumental like nothing a hip hop head’s heard before. Aided by swooping pads, it perfectly describes Om Unit’s unique approach to everything he does. Meanwhile, Wall of Light‘s tantalizingly laid back snare takes it’s shuffle from hip hop greats, bringing the swinging break it into the future with a deep synth and twinkling melodies.
MC-esque vocals are something utilized throughout, even where the music behind them is more left field. MC Jabu’s poetic flows lace the stripped back sound of Patients, rising steadily as Jabu’s inspired stream of conscious seems to gain momentum and rhythm before cutting out and reintroducing itself for the second half of the track. Charlie Dark also defines the final track of the LP, The Road, where his smooth poetry evokes vivid visions over an atmospheric, cinematic instrumental that uses it’s lack of drums to let it’s rustling atmospherics create a hypnotic soundscape before it slowly builds as Dark’s message of the road punctuates phrases and eventually cuts out to an epic break. Perhaps my favourite track of the whole project, it’s an incredible end to proceedings that leaves Charlie’s visions burned into your minds eye as the final hyponotic break lets you think about everything you’ve just heard before slowly fading away.
An album for those who pine after the level of craft, intricacy and thought that went into albums of old and feels uninspired by the single tune generation, Threads fully shows how much of a special voice in modern music Om Unit is as he’s really allowed to fully develop his own vision. Details such as the thoughtful Drift Interlude help to engage you in the breaks surrounding them, providing the pauses needed in order to truly appreciate the music once it returns. Taking you on a dark urban journey, moments of light arrive like sun glinting through the building’s shadows while periods of intensity describe sudden events as if they’ve jumped out of nowhere. Obviously of the Burial school, Om Unit adds his own slant to a sound that perfectly describes the streets of London after dark, adding more up beat house influences as he creates variety and depth in the journey. Pick it up in various formats from Civil Music.