Oskar Offermann, Do Pilots Still Dream of Flying?

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I’ve long appreciated his work, but I don’t think I became a real Oskar Offermann devotee until last February, when he released “Drive Me Home Please.” Split into two distinct sections, it was different from his previous tracks. Where they were compact and understated, it was euphoric, shiny and more than a little bit epic, in the pre-Internet sense of the word. This aesthetic was carried over to the German producer’s next record, U Can You To Me Say, on Mule Musiq, and persists on his debut long player, Do Pilots Still Dream of Flying?. Offermann is keen to move in the direction of traditional song-writing, it’s said. But if that sentence induced a mental groan, rest assured: his proven class ensures this decision is only subtly felt on Pilots.

Offermann does a good job singing on several tracks, for instance, such as the comfortably weary “Heading Out,” and the album’s tender conclusion, “So Close.” Though each clock in under four minutes, they’re more concise house than they are verse-chorus pop. Elsewhere, he’s pretty much his usual self, only with a greater predilection for melody. And I think this is why I suddenly started to take more notice in February: Offermann is really, really good at it. Leading with a sweet, flute-like tone, the 80s-tinged title track constitutes a stunning, panoramic opening to the album. Engine-like bass thrums beneath your seat, and it’s not hard to envisage soaring over sun-lit, dream-like fields. “Technicolour Dreams” — first released on the aforementioned Mule 12″ — is similarly honey-filled, its background shaded with flickering chords, and thwacking percs holding more immediate sway. Or “One Two Love,” which starts off murkily, but gradually rises to enact a limpid, bell- and string-packed crescendo.

At times, these outings are reminiscent of Offermann’s collaborator and friend, Moomin, and more particularly, his debut LP, The Story About You. While Pilots isn’t as sample-indebted as that effort, it does share a certain melodic sensibility; the ability to drag much more out of a few notes than you might expect. A beatless, minute-long dub of last year’s “You Said Party, I Said Maybe” demonstrates this aptly, while “Felt Comfty Right Away” (or “Great Total Overall,” depending on which press material you believe) has a very Moomin-like sense of fun, thrashing percussion contrasted with jaunty bells and chimes. Also striking is how comfortably Offermann shifts between these moods; from the majestic passage of the title track, to the ridiculously optimistic and almost Roman Flügel-like “Believe,” to the the slightly eerie drone of “Sun Streaks (In the Dark)” (or “Sunlight Streaks”), it all feels natural. This last one is relatively sparing with the melody, employing a warbling synth refrain only four or five times throughout. Its woozy mid-range and slicing percs are solid enough on their own, but really, you’ll find yourself desperately waiting for the five notes to return.

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However, to reduce Pilots to simply an album of great hooks would be an injustice. Here, Offermann has shown that he can do many things well, whether it’s activating the most primitive parts of the brain with syncopated grooves, twanging heart strings, or delighting with his supremely coherent arrangements. It is indeed a triumph of masterful song-writing. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that any track here could stand alone as a career-topping single for Offermann, and hence, Pilots is his biggest and most accomplished work yet. Accordingly, it will also prove to be one of this year’s most well-rounded and distinctive house albums.

pdch  on November 8, 2012 at 12:23 PM

I agree, very nice and premeditated work on this album. I have most of Oskar’s releases and am really enjoying the way he develops his sound over the time. Also agree that “Drive Me Home Please” is a one great bomb-track.

Nick Connellan  on November 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

I didn’t mention it, but this is one of the best album titles of all time.

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