A short but exceptionally powerful set of recordings from the informal OMA collective. The crew, led by The Ex’s G.W. Sok and backed up by members of Tombed Visions alumni Action Beat and Bad Body, mixes samples, viscous electronics, heartfelt vocals and spoken word texts in a rich and satisfying stew that packs a real emotional punch. And if the diversity of its sonic palette means ‘OMA’ veers all over the place during its 20-minute runtime, that ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Each track plunges you deep into its sound-world from the get-go and the resulting listening experience is like wandering through a gallery in which each room is a distinct installation, establishing its own parameters and playing by its own rules. And the fact that one feels energised rather than exhausted while digging into it is credit to the imagination and restraint of its personnel.
The two spoken word cuts hit hardest on initial listens, although things balance out with further exposure. ‘Aberfan’ features a text by Jon Longford, slightly adapted by Sok, which deals with the catastrophic events of October 1966 in which 116 children and 28 adults perished. An unnamed narrator recalls the events of that day from his vantage point in the present, the pictures of devastation as fresh in his mind as the trauma yet unresolved. “The rain poured all night, and a teetering slagheap slid down the mountain and engulfed the classrooms to which the kids had just returned after singing All Things Bright And Beautiful in morning assembly,” he remembers, as surging beds of electronics swirl around him, evoking both the dreadful torrent and his own psychological torment. A coda featuring chiming church bells and devotional synth chords sidesteps cheese thanks to careworn textures that avoid shallow optimism while lightening the darkness a little.
The experience of the protagonist of ‘Hospital’, while not quite as severe, is still disturbing. “First we’re going to get in the bath, the nurse said. Aren’t you ashamed to come to the hospital so filthy?” he recounts. The implication that the narrator is a marginalised figure is clear, although it soon becomes obvious that the duty of care one might expect from a hospital has been transformed into a nightmare of institutional control. “You’re good for nothing, nothing at all,” shouts the doctor “You come here to eat eggs, you’re a parasite … don’t you know how much it all costs?” Underneath a kickdrum marks a stentorian rhythm and electronics moan and squeal as if under extreme duress. There’s your hostile environment, right there.
The remaining tracks provide some respite to the heavy vibes. But the solace they offer is distinctly icy, the kind of frozen calm you might get while grabbing a sneaky fag round the back of the abbatoir mid-shift. ‘Juno’ is has a nicely dystopian shuffle, propelled by a skittering hi-hat and lurching bass drum that leave enough space for the synths to carve elegant, glacial arcs. ‘Black Mirror’, meanwhile, is a moody techno stormer whose supple, fierce grooves nod to Detroit, especially the afrofuturist visions of Carl Craig’s ‘More Songs About Food And Revolutionary Art’. Bianca Biblioni’s echoing vocal lines drift through the liquid silver melodies like a fish in the water, as that smartass hi-hat programmer knocks out subtly insistent patterns that are answered by the kickdrum’s morse-code thump. As smooth and cold as a pint of Guinness.