Review: Omar Santis – Greatest Hits! (Svedgebruk)

Omar Santis – Greatest Hits (Svedgebruk)

I’ll readily admit that I’ve struggled with a lot at the deeper end of both house and techno over the last year. Cookie cutter arrangements, off-the-shelf moods, and the worrying straightening up of a scene that was just – just – beginning to furnish us with some interesting music has left has left us with the sense that many of the music’s proponents were more interested in jumping on the bandwagon than pushing boundaries.

The music of Omar Santis, though, has never really seemed like it fitted into the whole genre thing. His version of ‘deep’ has always had gone beyond easy tricks and tones, becoming such an essential part of the fabric of his work that the term itself has no real meaning. What’s more, he remains one of a very small band of modern producers working in these areas who understands the genuine interplay between mood and raw sound.

His Greatest Hits EP (Don’t let the title fool you, these are all new tracks) for Swedish label Svedgebruk is one of two halves. The B-side, firstly, gives us a pair of great, slowly unwinding house tracks, where gentle melodies and little bursts of sound colour the cosmic expansiveness of his creations. In particular, Chulingo Sound stands out with it’s deceptively tight grooves and ‘verbed out vocal flares, and draws on the spirit of Larry Heard whilst subverting something of the feel of Huerco S’s messy and fractured approach.

As good as the B-side is, though, the A-side is in another place entirely. It just takes off here as it absolutely rips out any link with any sort of modern house sound. Both the tracks border the realm of shear experimentalism, building slowly, but pretty directly, to into killer, ethereal grooves. Shijimi takes an eternity to get going, washing the listener with waves of sound ported from a desert sunset over an alien world before the creeping, acidic, bass rises out of the shadows and locks everything into place.

Philosophie seems at first to follow a similar path, but where Shijimi is all about the harsh contrast between glare and shadow, this track burrows down into itself. Tribal tinged toms and rhythms propel it into a deep and hypotic shaker that rises gradually, until it shifts up a gear with the introduction of the percussion. There isn’t much to it, it’s really a triumph of reductionism, but what it shows is how much power a tune can contain when a few elements are fused together at a fundamental level, avoiding cliché and utilising mood as a genuine feeling rather than an overt trick.

Santis is never going to be taken into the heart of any contemporary deep house scene. His music is far too individual and nuanced for that. What surprises me here is how ghostly, how otherworldly he manages to get, brilliantly proving that the current run of bloodless music from a host of others is more to do with a herd instinct than anything intrinsic to the scene. Bleak, beautiful and very potent. This is deepness done right.

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