Review : Onra - Deep in the Night
PitchforkLong Distance was familiar enough to give Onra a context, well-crafted enough to show off his potential, and of-the-moment enough to paint him into a corner. Despite the precedent set by the two Chinoiseries volumes that straddled his 2010 breakthrough, the big pull of Long Distance was an instantly gratifying sound that demanded to be elaborated on. His beats reassembled fractured vintage synth funk and R&B tropes, glossy state-of-the-art in '87 tightness into a new stutter-step looseness, like machines rebuilt with duct tape and wire hangers. If that approach recalled a lot of oft-cited predecessors and peers-- imagine making a case for a Dilla-evoking beat-creator at that style's most overwhelming saturation point-- it at least did so favorably, and in a way that focused on a distinct space of his own.
So is the next step to make that space more distinct, or just larger? The five-song Deep in the Night EP doesn't really answer that, which could be frustrating depending on how demanding you are of a 16.5-minute EP to represent forward motion instead of a mere supplement. Onra's gotten some enduring mileage out of these roller-rink throwbacks, owing equally to a keen ear for sources and a crafty idea of how to manipulate them. From a reverse-engineering perspective it can be fun to get at where he's going with his sample alteration, like how "L.O.V.E." slows Slave's '84 jam "Share Your (L.O.V.E.)" down to a first-gear residential neighborhood crawl and flips that percolating synthesizer burble in on itself over a door-kicking 4/4 kick-clap. But even when "Somewhere (Deep in the Night)" and "Hold Tight" embody everything great about this sound of Onra's, they pull right at the same pleasure centers in the same ways that "Send Me Your Love" and "Sitting Back" did: digital chimes rattle from the gusts caused by helicopter-blade keyboards, drum machines are manhandled into something more off-the-cuff and improvisational. Vocal hooks get reduced to the three or four notes that hit the hardest before getting split apart or cut off, appealing in the same ways as "Send Me Your Love" and "Sitting Back" are....full text
EastvillageradioAfter three or four years of releasing almost exclusively on All City, Parisian electro-hip-hop (or whatever) producer Onra (aka Arnaud Bernard) has made the jump to A-Trak's label Fool's Gold. At first, the move seems telling, as if it might reveal details about Onra's latest release, a five-track EP titled Deep In The Night, without actually listening to it. All City has a well-rounded roster of mostly chilled-out left-field beat artists and tasteful dance-oriented producers, while Fool's Gold is responsible for a hearty catalog of, for the most part, rave bangers and Danny Brown. And here come the speculations—will Deep In The Night sound like the instrumentals of Brown's next mixtape? Would the gluggily blunted vibes of Chinoiseries be replaced by apocalyptic 90 degree drops?
Nope. It turns out that Onra's move to Fool's Gold had little to no effect on his very strong Stones Throw influences. The ratio of rapped-over to instrumental songs is definitely higher in Deep In The Night than in past releases like Chinoiseries, but Onra's productions of the EP lend themselves nicely to dry-throat flows. The three instrumental tracks—L.O.V.E., Somewhere (Deep In The Night) and Hold Tight—share a theme of retro, funk-influenced electro sounds with the rapped-over beats. He tend to focus more on minutiae in the instrumental tracks, stocking a tune like L.O.V.E. with barely-there vocal soul vocal samples and short-lived loops that flash in and out of the mix....full text
NoiseyYou know how in Back to the Future, the time machine is a souped-up Delorean? Like, that’s funny, right? Kinda corny maybe, but makes a kind of comic sense. Onra’s new EP is like that. It’s made up of old-sounding elements, but sounds new. Maybe there’s more to these funky vintage synthesizer flutes, chopped-up R&B samples, and woozy drum breaks than anyone thought in the 80s. It’s not retro, exactly, it just pulls from the past. Sort of like how the fashion world rediscovers polyester every ten years; take an old thing and make it new.
The clear hit here is “VBB” featuring Jay Kin and Amalia, sounding like they just zoomed back to our time from 1983, wheels of their Delorean leaving flaming tracks, showing off all the cool shoes they bought back in time. The tracks on the new EP aren’t exactly mind-blowing, and they don’t have to be. These are unpretentious, groovy confections; perfect for getting wasted with people you don’t know that well but want to sleep with. They don’t need to show off, they’re too slow to really dance to—understated, thoroughly enjoyable. The only real downside to this little gem is that it’s too short. One wonders what other formerly forgotten funky technology Onra’s rediscovered, back in time, waiting to dress up and throw back to us....full text
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