Om Unit: Threads
Formally speaking, Threads is the debut album from London-based producer Jim Coles under the Om Unit name, but in actual fact it's his fourth full-length, arriving as it does after a number of releases under the 2tall name (which he retired in 2008) issued during the 2000s. Regardless, Threads is an impressive recording, one that stands out for the quality of its craft and its broad stylistic scope. Multiple genres are referenced but not at the expense of cohesiveness, and one comes away from Threads with an appreciation for it as a thoroughly well-resolved album of considerable ambition rather than as a mere assemblage of fifteen tracks.
Om Unit EPs have appeared in recent years on drum'n'bass-associated labels such as Goldie's Metalheadz and dBridge's Exit Records, but Threads isn't a full-on drum'n'bass album by any stretch of the imagination, even if evidence of Coles' jungle roots are audible in specific tracks (e.g., “Jaguar,” “Wicker and Pearl,” “Governer's [sic] Bay”). It would be more accurate to say that while Coles's various influences—dubstep, hip-hop, jungle, et al.—are present with the album material, they're deeply embedded within the music's DNA. Helping to make the set feel like a complete experience is its sequencing, with Coles thoughtfully segueing between vocal and instrumental cuts as well as head-nodding and high-energy moments.
The album includes a plentiful number of memorable moments. As an opener, the resplendent, synth-heavy instrumental “Folding Shadows” bodes well for what's to come, something “The Silence” lives up to in coupling a memorably emotive vocal performance by Jinadu (that sounds surprisingly Sting-like in Jinadu's title enunciation) with a lush downtempo backing. In a manner that echoes footwork, Coles combines two contrasting tempi in the track, one for the slow vocal melodic lines and the other the faster, dubstep-influenced percussive accompaniment. The wobble of a dubstep bass surfaces amidst the jungle drumsmithing of “Jaguar,” its graceful stealth refracted by “Governer's Bay” into something considerably more foreboding and intricate. Other instrumentals like “Reverse Logic” and “Deep Sea Pyramid” pulsate with creamy synth chords and funky, dubbed-out drum'n'bass rhythms. His hip-hop side comes to the fore during the harp-coloured “Jus' Sayin',” which features a dramatic MC turn by Gone The Hero, and Coles' handling of sound design impresses, too, as evidenced by a representative track such as “Nagual,” which entrances with a wide-screen, dubstep-inflected presentation.Voiceovers also appear, the first a brief, dread-stained reflection (“Drift Interlude”) and the second a portentous turn at album's close (“The Road”) by London's urban poet Charlie Dark whose words the listener can apply in general terms or specifically to the artistic challenges confronted by Coles over the years (“The road is selfish and the road can be hard, the road can be long, the road can be far / The road will mean struggle, the road will leave scars, the road requires wisdom, the road requires truth / The road will never care about the fire in the booth”). Regardless, the excellent Threads plays like a travelogue (and an occasionally rain-soaked one) that takes the listener on a stylistically and sonically rich, sixty-two-minute journey.