Raz Ohara & The Odd Orchestra, Raz Ohara & The Odd Orchestra

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Raz Ohara's 2001 album The Last Legend is a masterpiece of wistful pop, but its largely acoustic textures, touched up with the judicious use of digital techniques, is hardly the kind of thing you'd expect to find on Berlin's Get Physical label (home to more ebullient deep house from groups like M.A.N.D.Y. and Booka Shade). So it's doubly surprising to find that Ohara and his collaborator Oliver Doerell (of City Centre Offices 'groups Dictaphone and Swod) have basically recreated the feel of The Last Legend, despite the fact that Ohara has spent much of the past few years lending his voice to strictly electronic tracks by artists like Alexander Kowalski, Luomo and Apparat.

Wistful pop music from the voice behind hits from Apparat, Luomo and others.

Acoustic guitar, Rhodes keys, brushed drums and feathered digital crackles continue to provide the mossy cushion upon which Ohara stretches out like a languorous cat. (And just as shameless: unsentimental listeners may not be predisposed to his confessional style, nor his occasional liberties with perfect pitch.) But despite the tears-in-your-beer approach of the erroneously-titled "Happy Song," Ohara and Doerell manage to keep the atmosphere light. Gentle bossa nova rhythms wash "One" with lapping waves, while "Kisses" leavens its melancholy chord progression with inventive arrangements and twinkling synthesizer programming. The electronics are never overstated, but they play an essential role: "Wondering" transcends its debt to Nick Drake by virtue of analog bleeps and subtly R&B-influenced rhythms, while "Love for Mrs. Rhodes" unleashes a steady stream of chirps that suggests a tree canopy overhead, brimming with tiny, demure birds.