Ommm
Testing The Equipment

By Ed Chamberlin

 
This album has some of the funniest and most simple cover artwork I have ever seen, especially when taken in context with the music itself. A hulking, hairy yeti with enormous furry clobbering fists seems caught either in mid-dance or about the beat the shit out of someone. Ommm is one of weirdo-commune Adaadat's artists, and a rarely seen Tibetan guru, if you believe the website. His name is Edmund Davie.

Right, so Adaadat, that's, like, clanky electronica with a hint of childishness and violence, but never violence against children, right? Pretty common currency these days, so how does this stuff stand out?

It's hard to say. Opener Catwalk mixes piercing signal tones with junkyard rhythms (Tom Waits would love it), plus some DJ asking them to explain 'Why you're here?'. I don't listen to enough radio to know who it is, but the overall feeling is pranksterish playfulness à la Normal Position. Emac follows with jerky drum sequences and what sounds like acid trance for 3-year-olds, especially with the miniature fire engine sirens. Tree is a little slower and reveals that Davie does indeed have a pretty good ear for a quirky melody with its looping keyboards and deep bass.

The first track to come through with any particular force is Cave Air Foci, whose echo-y bells and wrong footing rhythms are engaging but unfortunately call to mind too closely the mid-90s work of Aphex and Squarepusher. The same goes for Imax where the restless beats, high pitched sounds and retarded piano sounds are just plain irritating. Occasionally the main melody drops an octave or two, easing the pain on the ears and revealing a busy but graceful production. But these are short respites and what has obviously been laboured over becomes something of a labour to listen to.

You wonder whether it is Aphex and Squarepusher being so ahead of their time, or Ommm being unable to keep up. To be fair, I think it is the former, as the sounds that were being pioneered in the mid-90s still carry an enormous clout today. I just can't help wanting to put the Richard D James album in the machine and crank it up instead when I hear this.

But there are some delightful moments here. Unfortunately they are found on the shortest tracks. Equatorial Clique has an eerie vintage sheen, but the fidgety micro-sounds keep the track firmly rooted in the present as atmospheric melodies and bass burbling massage the ears. All Day Template has even more to recommend it, its sporadic whirs and crunches painting an image of lonely office machines making music in the night. Likewise, Air Marimba features some very oriental sounding melodies (maybe the Tibetan guru thing is true after all) echoing over drunken hip hop shuffles and breathy machine sighs. Oh, and it's all over too quickly! The most complete (and individual) piece clocks in at under two minutes. Elementary Particles offers the most emotional melody of the album, with cascading twinkles and bass sweeps which clearly wink at Boards Of Canada. But the soft yet irregular beats add some delicious textures to the sound as a whole.

Adaadat is home to some very talented people, and I reckon Edmund Davie has a flair of his own. But his willing childishness gets in the way of what could be very engaging pieces. Maybe it's just a phase, but for a real taste of Adaadat madness, check out the non-stop electro-meltdown madness that occurs when they group together as an army and play live.
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