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The Unseen and Unheard – A Rare Diggable Music Report

Alright kids, time to do some soul searching, and perhaps some well-needed crate digging.

French producer Onra is a mysterious individual, to say the least. In the greater league of vinyl jockeys and drum machine addicts – suffering through the leagues of paper cuts and musty basements – he came as a relative unknown, only having released albums as collaboration efforts alongside other relatively unknown French hip-hop producers (Quetzal, Fonky Family).

That is, until one of his releases landed stateside.

In the course of his first solo venture, Chinoiseries, Onra conjures the ghosts of the greats, as if he had been producing alongside them in their prime.

Through a run of 32 tracks, most barely breaking a minute and a half, Onra channels memories of old Wu-Tang film scenes and invokes the same urge to rewind and repeat scenes (or tracks, in this case). The samples range from slow and Saigon-soulful (“Last Tango in Saigon”, “Smoking Buddha”) to fully-flipped and ready for chronic head-nodding (“Apocalypse Now”, “They Got Breaks Too”). The amazing aspect, however, is Onra’s ability to truly capture both a west coast and Detroit sound all while having only heard of the late (and great) J Dilla, and the perpetually cannabis-superpowered Madlib.

Onra has the idea of J Dilla’s clip-and-bounce, short-throw sample mentality, flexing it over both subtle and bass-heavy drums with blinding dopeness and accuracy. The experimental aspects of Onra’s production, a la Madlib and Flying Lotus, come out in the distorted drum, vocal percussion movie-sampling grooves that Onra seems to gravitate towards throughout the album.

Perhaps both Onra and Madlib possess the common thread of travel as their greatest similarity. Madlib traveled to India as part of his latest instrumental endeavor (Beat Konducta Part 3: Beat Konducta in India). Onra has pulled the greater body of his samples from old Thai and Balinese records, movies and recorded concerts, thus providing the listener with a hefty slice of true Vietnam-era Saigon soul.

Knowing his position as a relative unknown in the sphere of post-Dilla hip-hop producers, he still manages to sneak a dope release into our borders, into our ears, and into the hearts of true hip-hop instrumental aficionados, He saves the last part of his liner notes to ask: “W.W.D.D.” (What Would Dilla Do?).

Dilla would be proud.

Chinoiseries is wholeheartedly crate-diggable, and worth finding. Save your duckets for this release, and cop it as soon as you find it.

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