From America’s capital, emerges fairly new record company OMUMO, and starting in on their third year they have released a label compilation featuring seven of their diverse artists. Founder and producer Brad Atefi has delivered a melange of ambient, folk, new age, hip hop, country, synthesized worldly music that seems to bridge gaps across many musical divides. So let’s take a look at these magnificent, musical seven.
First up on the list is Vin Mariani. With an interesting mix of auto-tune, electronic beats, hip hop and folk pop vocals, and some wonderful harmonies in Sireen Jawdat, Mariani is indeed an eclectic part of this compilation all on his own. Fearing only that the unrelenting use of auto-tune might be a sign of vocal weakness or insecurity, I should have liked to have heard some clarity to the vocals, at least once, but of course the quality of the music surrounding the vocal effect was fitting; I only think that the constant stream of auto-tune confuses the clarity of the lyrics, and may perhaps betray a certain insecurity.
Bowing to the divine in all of us, Ocean Black drops some simple beats with heartfelt rhymes to coast over top. Each of OMUMO’s artists seem to love mixing and matching many genres, and the addition of folky guitar, beautiful choral singing, happening harmonies, electronica, and that (I’m beginning to suspect) seemingly signature auto-tune of producer Brad Atefi, makes Ocean Black no exception to this mixture of musical tastes.
Bridging the gap between eastern and western music, I can see some people bowing in reverence to this Persian Idol. Round singing, quick and kickass guitar, bright uke, and often settled in an off-the-floor sound, Persian Idol gets by without auto-tune, and comes out relatively unscathed, effect-wise, with the exception of some phasing in and out, for either interest, or fear of being boring, but I must say this group is plenty interesting and not at all boring, so the additional effects are in no way needed, especially with the floor recording production quality that accompanies the tunes in one way or another. A huge fan of that eastern sound, the way in which east meets west, especially in their track ‘Curse of Wisdom‘ is brilliant. Now if only we can rid this wonderful music of some of its additional effects.
With ‘The Beginning of a New Era‘, Oxindol sets out to mix acoustic rhythms and strings with ambient layering and synth beats. Yes, again a flood of effect, I actually don’t mind this in Oxindol at all. An experimental bit of music gone right, it feels as though the layers all belong one with the other, and while I am more than sure that the absolutely wonderful guitar licks would be successful on their own, it’s clear that the amalgamation of acoustic and electronic sound here is very purposeful, and proper. Oxindol even knows when to pull back, in just the right way, from all of the electronica with ‘Born To‘ as the perfect, albeit too brief, example.
With sometimes dry, and sometimes very effect-laden vocals, sullen, but meaningful lyrics, ethereal backing vocals, and simple acoustic guitar, Mamas Boiz adds some of that big synth, and while I of course think it could do well without, I understand that labels have their musical focus, and it’s clear that OMUMO is effect-focused. The guitar work amidst this spacey music may be simple, but gives the illusion of technical prowess in a great way. Unsure of the censoring of ‘Let It Be My Fate To Die Alone‘, given the profanity prevalent in other tracks on the compilation, I wonder if the lyric pull is purposeful artistically.
Some slick slide work, with clearly live takes of acoustic jamming makes Spring Hill Carryout the exception on OMUMO’s roster. Of course that’s what I said to myself after only listening to their first track on the album, but jumping ahead to ‘Last Call‘ I discover that perhaps they are not the exception on the basis I give above, but in terms of production, masterful mashing of genres, and the tightness of the music overall, I still hold that Spring Hill Carryout stands out as the exception on this record.
Last but certainly not least on this compilation, we have the Artist Formerly Known as Ocean Man. With wonderful, worldly influences apparent in the composition and lyrics of the music, this group nearly crosses the finish line neck and neck with Spring Hill Carryout, if not for the interludes of drowning effects. No denying the incredible musicianship here, but it need not be interrupted with the occasional burst of irrelevant effects.
OMUMO, no doubt has some great talent on their roster, and their Sampler compilation is certainly unique. There is vocal and instrumental prowess all over this album, and it is wonderful to listen to, especially for those delicious moments when one can taste the honey that is the real music, devoid of the artificial sweetener that comes in the form of layer, after layer of effects. Granted, there are tracks on this album where acoustic and electric join hands, and work together wonderfully, but I fear the digital crutch that OMUMO may be using to get about the studio. I appreciate experimentation, and this budding label may thrive in just such a way, but I say let the music speak for itself.
Bravo all the same.