Om Unit: Inversion

Like many a London teen, Jim Coles, who once issued tracks rooted in hip-hop and turntablism under the 2tall moniker before reinventing himself as Om Unit, grew up on a steady diet of jungle and drum'n'bass, and thus naturally developed a deep connection to Metalheadz and its trailblazing releases. Though his debut album Threads, issued on Civil Music in 2013, documented Coles' take on footwork and post-dubstep styles, his follow-up, the thirty-seven-minute EP Inversion, sees him returning to his roots in accordance with the release's appearance on Metalheadz. Or, as Coles himself describes it, Inversion is “a nod to the sound of [his] teenage self.” The connection to Goldie's label is strengthened by the fact that Coles was granted access by the man himself to some of his studio DATs and archive samples to thread into the EP's tracks.

Though the material is occasionally hard-hitting (witness the clattering beat fury of “Understated” and “Parallel”), Coles is too sophisticated an artist to simply serve up eight unrelenting bangers. The aptly titled opener “Touching Down” lays the groundwork for the release with a moody symphonic intro that shifts gears at the two-minute mark when a voice sample (“Setting the standard / We deliver the blueprint / Metalheadz touchin' down”) unleashes a firestorm of whipcrack snares and bass roughness.

A clear standout is “The War,” which first centers on a cryptic, doom-laden MC turn by Jehst (“There's a war goin' on inside no man is safe from...”) and then a film-derived voiceover (is that Jeremy Irons?) whose wry message, focusing as it does on the emptiness of Western culture and its corrupt values, is thought-provoking in the best sense possible. Elsewhere, Coles, indulging once again his symphonic tendencies, works dub and funk into the jungle-inflected atmospherics of “The Crossing” before taking a brief, prog-styled side-trip in the synthesizer-heavy “Layers.” It's both interesting and heartening to see Coles revisiting his love of jungle and drum'n'bass at the very moment when the genres are experiencing a resurgence in popularity for listeners and producers alike, and as Inversion shows, the music's definitely in excellent hands when a creative talent of Coles' caliber brings his artistry to it.

December 2014