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Omar S – It Can Be Done, But Only I Can Do It review

Omar S has always been something of a maverick, but even by his own high standards, surprise second album It Can Be Done, But Only I Can Do It is something else. For starters, it was largely unexpected, gloriously unencumbered by pre-hype (stores were given little over a week’s notice of its release) and little indication that he was prepping a new full-length (his last album was released back in 2005). Given his usual secrecy and forthright attitude towards music industry protocol, this shouldn’t come as a total shock. Even so, it’s a bold move that’s taken his usual fanatical and clued-up fan base by surprise.

So what of the album itself? Like much of his work, it’s riddled with acute contrasts: tough and aggressive on one hand (the ragging acid of “Ganymede”), soft, calming and blissful on the other (the casual jazz-flex of “Nites Over Comption”). This bi-polar approach is obvious from the very start, when bubbling acid opener “Solely Supported” makes way for the hissing, melodic futurism of “Supported Solely”. It’s like the rest of the album in microcosm. One of the Detrotian’s greatest gifts is his refusal to stick to one particular groove, or for that matter carve his own distinct niche within a trusted genre. Here, he uses that to his advantage, successfully touching on a number of his usual musical staples. The results veer from the merely impressive to the utterly mindblowing.

The deeper reaches of Detroit’s beatdown sound are visited on “Look Hear Watch”, a kind of Moodymann-on-downers exercise in sparse deepness notable for the porno groans and heart-aching pianos that run throughout. “I Wish” offers heady, melodic deep house thrills, whilst “Bobien Larkin” strips back the action to little more than an intoxicating, hypnotic techno groove. Then there’s “Over You Two”, a next generation Motor City techno jam that pays homage to the city’s original pioneers whilst wrapping itself around one of Omar S’s trademark futurist grooves.

And so it goes on, fusing the past, present and future with cautious glee. The title track offers any icy, bleep-laden analogue/digital message to his doubters; arrogance turned into unfussy electronic blues. Towering over the album’s closing moments is previous single “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance”, a near-faultless chunk of genius-like Detroit simplicity that has rightly become an underground anthem. Very few have succeeded in making genuinely brilliant house and techno albums, but here, Omar S has. Perhaps the album title is a warning. After all, it can be done, but only he can do it.

Matt Anniss