Osunlade – Occult Symphonic (R2/Border) CD Review

Osunlade’s extravagant biography might lead the listener to expect something altogether different than Occult Symphonic.

He played piano from the age of seven; from the same town as Miles Davis; multi-instrumentalist; former producer to the stars; composer for, uh… Sesame Street. In a PR blurb that sounds as literarily suspect as the typical Nigerian scam email, Osunlade decided “he would no longer work under the influences of corporate ideals and demands.” Fair enough, one would think. But: “He chose to quiet himself, find spiritual solace and honour his soul. This led him to Ifa, a naturalist ancestral culture based on divination, deriving from the Yoruba tribes of Africa and practiced by the slaves during the Diaspora to America.”

I don’t want to make light of Osunlade’s life-changing conviction, but, dabnabit, turns out that all this soul-searching led to “his dream”, the formation of a record label specialising in House music. I don’t want to make light of House music (well I do, actually), but the album behind the grandiose title of Occult Symphonic is simply an old-fashioned mix CD.

All of the above makes me want to kick it to shreds, but OS is a pretty good mix CD, and although I did fall asleep briefly a couple of times between tracks nine and 11, I found it a very listenable diversion on a muggy Sunday afternoon.

Those who enjoy the metrical simplicity of a 4/4 beat together with the kind of spatial effects pioneered by the dub scientists and the surgically clean beats favoured by those German minimal techno engineers will find it to be an enjoyable ride. OS starts with more of an organic dub accent, where the sounds are grainy and the deep thump is processed until its little pixels are starting to atomise. Later, it morphs into those aforementioned clean beats, geographically sounding like a halfway house between sleek Detroit techno and its cousin in German minimal techno.

Speaking of which, while Osunlade mixes the whole shebang like a DJ at a dance gig, with each piece perfectly synced with the last and perfect overlaps and segues galore, it’s probably at a too-slow BPM-rate to get too many asses shaking on the dancefloor. Not in NZ, at any rate.

Sonically, however, it’s rich pickings. Although entirely electronic (apart from a brief narrative by an uncredited Vincent Price, and an occasional female pleasure squeal), sound sorcery is at work, and some of the audio effects are almost hallucinogenic. At one point, for instance, the dub effects appear to roll around the room anti-clockwise, right around the front, side and back perimeter of the speakers; a superb audio illusion.

While top rankings for minimal techno might be reserved for the likes of Richie Hawtin or Monolake, Occult Symphonic is an enjoyable dip into the work of 13 less well-known (to me at least) beat/soundmakers, beautifully stitched together by Mr Osunlade. GARY STEEL

Sound = 4

Music = 3.5/5

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