Photo by Jeri Rafter
Even though Jim Coles has shifted from the turntablist works he produced under the name 2tall to the electronic music of current project Om Unit, there are interesting threads that run through his work. His beats still flow soulfully, his melodies are still lush, and the thick bass lines bubble and swagger. Perhaps it’s because he has been such a student of the recent rise in electronic tangents of hip-hop that he can bridge both worlds so well. The Boom Bap Continuum project with Kper and DJ Clockwork showed how hip-hop instrumentals have evolved into bass leaning electronic music, and his Om Unit tracks feel like a natural extension of that. Of course, one of the most notable changes from his earlier work is the tempo, which is now more in line with today’s bass music. His last release of 2011, Transport, arrives on Civil Music, which also hosted his The Timps EP earlier in the year.
Opening up Transport is “Swimming Dragon,” a cinematic number built on organic sounds that recall birds singing over watery synths. Of the four original tracks, this one has the most energy and pushes into dance-friendly territory. The Ital Tek remix compresses the beats into starker, almost footwork territory, although the overall sound is halfway between Ital Tek’s Midnight Colour album and Om Unit’s original. “An Eternal Way” and “Cold World” are the two most reduced tracks here. The former is lush like “Swimming Dragon” but forsakes the driving propulsion of that track, instead allowing the melodic elements to drive the song rather than the drums. Thick with boom bap, “Cold World” is definitely the most hip-hop. It hearkens back to the more mechanical and artificial drum and bass sounds of early 80’s beats.
Perhaps the most interesting of Transport‘s tracks comes right in the middle. “Vibrations” sounds completely unique, a strange mixture of modern funk and footwork, with a healthy dose of electro thrown in for good measure. The slowed down vocal sample of “vibe… vibrations” only adds to the diverse nature of this song, used in such a way that recalls other well known songs about vibrations. As if the footwork influence wasn’t apparent enough, Machinedrum strips the song down to a lean and more furious version, removing the funk and adding in frenetic ticks. Om Unit has crafted a forward-leaning EP in Transport, enhanced by appropriate remixes that point to his influences and community.