Oh No, Dr. No’s Oxperiment

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Think of it as Donuts gone global: a cross-cultural polymorph that fires '70s psych and grimy funk through a ten-ton bouzouki.

Donuts with hummus, anyone?

The Dr. behind the decks has had a bit of a fitful career. After an adequate but unremarkable debut, Oh No issued Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, a whalloping piece of turntable funk that sliced up and reconfigured the crazy rhythms of '60s soundtrack composer Galt McDermot. The resulting record was light years beyond its predecessor, suggesting Oh No works best when he confines his beatmaking to specific parameters.

He continues to concentrate and refine on Oxperiment, this time applying his calculated collage work to the music of the Mediterranean. Oh No (who's known to his parents and his brother Madlib as — no kidding — Michael Jackson) splices together snippets from Italian soundtracks, Greek go-go, Anatolian funk and endless international obscurities with a kind of giddy irreverence. The results are invigorating, a breakbeat masterpiece that plays out like the soundtrack to a lost Sergio Leone space epic. Oxperiment comes crashing to life with "Heavy," a steady-fizzing confection that pits a delirious corkscrewing vocal against a grease-fried guitar riff, looping them over and over again to create a kind of firm insistence. It's these kind of beats — the rigid and relentless — Oh No does best; he laces a snake-charmer horn line through the march-time rat-a-tat of "Exp Out the Ox" and throws a kemenche into fits over the thundering backbeat in the justly-named "Action."

The trick to Oxperiment is that Oh No basically treats all of his source material like Western R&B, isolating the breaks and forcing them to collide against themselves over and over again for maximum effect. And though the record glides from one sixty-second song to another, it never feels like anything less than a perfectly-realized whole. It's going to wreak havoc on your monthly download allotment, but it's worth it — Oxperiment is masterfully constructed, another sure-footed leap forward for a producer who's just now beginning to figure out his strengths.