Onra, Long Distance

Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 08.28.12 in Reviews

Long Distance

A journey across time rather than space

The French producer Onra first came to prominence with Chinoiseries, an adventurous 2007 collection of beat collages drawn from from an eye- and ear-opening visit to his father’s native Vietnam. His marvelous 2010 follow-up, Long Distance, is no less imaginative, though this time it’s a journey across time rather than space. This is what “future funk” sounded like from the vantage of Onra’s imaginary 1980s, all floaty synths, two-stepping drum computers, obnoxiously slapped bass and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis gloss. At his best, Onra achieves a mesmerizing cross between Daft Punk’s Homework and J. Dilla’s chunkiest stutter-funk — it’s distinctly modern while conjuring a bygone ecstasy. The charming “My Mind is Gone” (featuring Olivier Daysoul) wobbles along in fits and starts and “Long Distance” (Daysoul again) and “The One” (featuring T3 of Slum Village) maximize the possibilities of speaker-blown overmodulation. “WeeOut” sounds like an inside-out Soulsonic Force jam, a ferocious synth-swoosh punctuating every line. “Sitting Back” and “Don’t Stop” throb with a distinctive, FM-band euphoria, while the dense funk of “Tape This” is like the tape-warp comedown. The high point is “High Hopes,” a head-nod tribute to S.O.S. Band’s classic of the same name. It stretches the original’s bass-line to the very threshold of funk, as throwback crooner Reggie B leads the thunderous handclaps.