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Onra – Long Distance review

Like Onra’s first two solo albums, the Parisian native’s latest full-length effort is based on a concept. His 2007 album, Chinoiseries, was pieced together using samples from old Chinese and Vietnamese records he found while crate digging in Vietnam (Onra boasts part Vietnamese heritage). His 2009 album 1.0.8 was inspired by Bollywood music. For his third release, it’s all about paying his respects to 80s and 90s boogie, soul, funk, hip hop, R&B, disco and electro. Surprisingly, Onra does this without a hint of any tongue inserted into any cheek (unlike, say, Chromeo). While Long Distance is a blast from a funkafied past, the French beat maker still has one foot firmly planted in the present by also fusing the kinds of textures and sounds that future funk and leftfield hip-hop producers like DâM-Funk, Hudson Mohawke and Flying Lotus have been bringing to the masses of late.

And when Onra isn’t cutting up sampled R&B vocals to throw on tracks like the standout “Send Me Your Love” or “Oper8tor,” he’s enlisting the help of occasional guest vocalists. T3 from Slum Village reminds us how good the golden age of hip-hop was in “The One.” Olivier DaySoul evokes the spirit of Andre 3000 in “My Mind is Gone” and the spirit of 90s R&B in “Long Distance” (although it’s actually a remake of Carol Williams’ 1986 “Have You For My Love”). Just go ahead and try not to sing along. Reggie B. brings his smooth voice to “High Hopes,” a standout track that also sounds like a ridiculously addictive ode to 90s R&B, but which is actually a remake of the S.O.S. Band’s track of the same name from 1982.

Long Distance is positive proof that good music doesn’t always have to be complex or push any sort of envelopes, and that it’s okay to just be straight up fun. Throw on your high tops and take this feel good summer album to your next house party jam (the 90s kind, of course).

Review: Helen Luu