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Album Review: Onra – Long Distance

Album Review: Onra – Long Distance

Onra – Long Distance
All City Records: 2010
Purchase on Amazon

Let’s cut straight to the chase, Onra’s fourth lp Long Distance leaves much to be desired. Though I am unfamiliar with his previous work, this being a departure or continuation of his sound means little to the quality of this album. I have no qualms grouping Onra with the vast umbrella of the current “beat generation”. Yet, Onra does have a sound that separates it from his glitchy, wonky, ambient-electro counterparts. Long Distance transports us back to the days of Jehri Curls, Members Only jackets and Raw era Eddie Murphy. The production stank of Rick James’ Street Songs and MJ’s Thriller is pervasive, but Long Distance is half-baked boogie and lukewarm space funk.

The album gets off to a damn good start with “Intro” and “My Comet”, but quickly unravels into obsessively synth-driven grooves that ramble on for three and four minutes with little qualifier. I am getting at the fact that the songs on Long Distance have little to offer in form of a strong stucture: no bridges, little choruses, with minimal breakdowns and tempo change ups. “Sitting Back”, “Moving”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Oper8tor” all suffer from this quality. Even the songs with vocalist seem to meander through tepid grooves hoping to truly jam. The puzzling swanky odyssey of “My Mind Is Gone” is a glaring example of the short comings. The song opens with featured singer Olivier Daysoul rambling nothings, followed by a hook, a pseudo verse, the hook returns, than the beat just rides out for near a minute and a half. It leaves the listener wondering what was trying to be executed thematically and rhythmically.

A predominately vocal-less album, concerned with the step-child of disco and funk would seem to be earnestly concerned with having more rhythmically dynamic songs, but it is not. With songs such as “The One”, “Tape This” and “To The Beat”, Long Distance sounds more like a beat tape of ideas, than actual developed songs. Yet, Onra’s jewel in the synthetic dust is “Mechanical”. A semi-epic groove that cleverly conceals “Thriller’s” pulse, and slowly adds various elements that make the body rock, eventually deconstructing into a jarring change up at its end. “Mechanical” is easily the albums brightest star.

Lastly, I will admit that Long Distance seems to be made for the club. Unfortunately, it’s a club from a time passed and has little hope to be played in such a setting today, outside of niche local scenes. It is also undeniable that Onra has an ear for melody and groove, yet on this album he failed to execute them properly. Long Distance thus comes off sounding like mimicry, rather an innovative re-interpretation of a sound that once dominated the speakers of Reagan’s ignored demographics.

★★☆☆☆

2 out of 5

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12 Comments

  1. Patch
    Sep 15, 2012 @ 16:38:00

    This is simply an awful review and I disagree with almost everything you said.

  2. Noah
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 00:00:00

    Man its crazy how much I disagree with you. I mean you are comparing it to things that I think it ought not be compared to i.e. like regular music. I agree with basically everything you say except all your value judgements.

    You say that it doesn’t offer a lot in terms of structure. Even if I were to agree with this statement which I am not sure I do (I would argue that the structure is just a bit more subtle and smooth and what we are used to), I would say it’s organic and unpretentious. It doesn’t conform to the conventional 1,2,3 formula and I find it intriguing; it keeps the listener interested.
    You compare it to a beat tape. I would too and this is precisely why you can’t compare it to regular music. It’s like apples and oranges. Whether or not a music on a beat tape are songs depends on what you mean by “song”. Traditionally “song” is just a word for music that has vocals and or lyrics. So then using this definition if we say that the album isn’t centered around vocals it is obvious that the pieces on the album aren’t “songs”. I deny however if you mean to say that the ideas aren’t nuanced, sophisticated and complete enough to hold their own without vocals. I am a musician and hearing this album for the first time a couple of years ago was earth shattering because I was so blown away by just how interesting the music of this album was on its own. You said it, the grooves and the textures are what this album is focused on and I believe that they offer more than enough artistic content.
    Interestingly, I find Mechanical to be not one of the best tunes on the album. It is a great tune but it’s not what stands out for me. As I said before the originality of the arrangements and textures make the value of this album for me. I found that with Mechanical I had heard some of these sounds with other electronic musicians like Daft Punk and Justice. One of my consistently favourite tunes on the album is Sitting Back.
    Finally I don’t see anything wrong with taking something old and making it new again and in my opinion that is exactly what Onra does on this album. He does it with a sound that nobody is doing right now and he does it extremely well. I love this album as does everyone I show it too because of how it takes a sound that was thought to be dead and makes it hip again.

    My name is Noah Barer. If you’d like to discuss this or any other music with me you can email me at nbarer@gmail.com

  3. Jbert
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 15:17:17

    what record was sampled for the intro?

  4. scott
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 09:28:20

    mechanical is the worst track on this album, everything else is genius. after skimming over this review, i can tell what kind of “reviewer” you are. won’t be reading any more.

  5. alan
    Jun 08, 2010 @ 03:02:08

    For jjjj

    Sitting back is a remix of BBQ Band Dreamer
    High Hopes is a remix of SOS Band High Hopes
    My Comet is a remix of BBQ Band Genie

  6. Gedi Dabakaeri
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 17:00:23

    I really like this LP. It’s a very funky album throughout. I could do without the vocalists on some tracks but other than that I will be playing this joint summertime. “Rock On”, “L.I.A.B.” and “Jeeps” are all incredible. I have this a lot closer to a 3.5/5.

  7. Francisco McCurry
    Jun 03, 2010 @ 09:09:26

    lol, how about everything from prince, rick james, billy ocean, the debarges, anita baker, ect during the 80s. seak and you shal find my friend

  8. jjjjj
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 16:21:11

    can you name some of those records please?

  9. frank_be
    May 30, 2010 @ 23:43:29

    Yup 2 potholes! If I want to listen to this sound there is a wealth of early 80s records that accomplish it much better. Thanks for reading.

  10. JustPlans
    May 30, 2010 @ 10:05:12

    Whaaaat 2 potholes?! now I’m f@#%in pissed… This album starts the summer with a bang definiteley one of the best so far

  11. Emay
    May 29, 2010 @ 15:59:29

    Just listened to this EP. Shit is friggin dope! haha. Long Distance and Oper8tor are my favourite joints for sure.

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