It took me some time to appreciate classic techno and house music outside and beyond the club context and its functional rhythms.The experience of these “rituals of disappearing” along with the feeling of bass always have been too much of a crucial component that no headphones or stereo system could replace. It may seem superficial, but I never really cared to look further into its culture and eventually learn there was some depth to it; a deeper root that went past the hedonistic rush of late-night excess.
The beginnings of techno music have been well documented, and yet they are still surrounded by a certain mystique. From its early stages this sound reflected, strangely, both futurism and nostalgia, apocalypse and science-fiction. When in 1985, amidst the bleakness of post-industrial Detroit, a small group of afro-american teenagers was producing first singles in their basements, it wasn’t just a product of their admiration of Chicago house and the formal dance music of Kraftwerk, it was also a way of transcending their environment. A landscape in which the city’s world-famous automobile industry was in the process of collapsing and where robots were taking over the production in the manufacturing plants. At the same time it seemed like a radical alternative to the dogma of authenticity and personality cult in rock music by approaching a strict artificiality instead. The machinic beat blended modern and archaic experiences (repetition and dance) and laid the groundwork on which a new myth of Detroit city could rise. The Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum describes its escapist quality as following: “Techno articulated an experience of living amongst the ruins, it took flight above fire blackened buildings of 1967, it hovered over the aftermath of the 1973 recession, looked down from a position of supernatural clarity on a city hollowing in the grip of Reaganomic policies.”
Omar-S (also records under the moniker Oasis) rises from this particular tradition of electronic music. A Detroit native, who since almost 20 years now, records and releases raw and unfiltered, home-grown house and techno through his label FHXE. His musical socialization began in a cultural transition phase for the city, when MC5 and The Stooges were already burned out and techno music hadn’t quite come up yet:”[…]there was so much new music out: rap was new, house music was new, techno music was new, booty music was new, electro was new, there was Michael Jackson, Prince, Roger Troutman, George Clinton, Boy George, and all the electronic music from England. So I do think that I was lucky to grow up in the early 80s.”
When I discovered his incredible mix for Fabric (record label of the infamous London techno club) some time last year, it suddenly all made sense: underneath the mechanical punch, there was this warmth and underlying funk, the boogie, the sleaze – the jams! It was all there, yet so understated that there was enough infinite space for the repetitive motions to function (listen to the grimy “Blade Runner”). Produced on a multitude of old drum machines and synthesizers, his Oasis project – released a couple years prior – is the continuation or rather the raw essence of the aforementioned Fabric mix: classic hard-hitting beats, sometimes accentuated with conga drums – simple yet complex. Fragments of nebulous melody, always deep and hypnotic, evoking the kindred spirits of Derrick May and Basic Channel. Far from the polished, lifeless, overmastered aesthetic of many current techno and house productions and somehow more in tune with the outsider house movement of recent years. I’m aware that its sketchiness and reductionism might be an acquired taste and it is consumed exclusively by fetishists and nostalgics these days, but, nevertheless, you should give it a decent try and: “Don’t forget to go home”!