For Om Unit, it all comes back to drum & bass.
Producer Jim Coles has spent his 20-year musical career migrating through different styles and artistic identities. As so many UK teens did in the ‘90s, Coles found his introduction to the rave scene through jungle. He spent the better part of a decade experimenting with breaks in his bedroom before emerging in 2003 as hip hop producer and turntablist 2tall. With three albums, several mixtapes, and recognition as a finalist in the DMC World DJ Championships on his 2tall resume, he had achieved a level of success that might keep some producers comfortable in their niche.
But not Coles. After five years in hip hop, he was ready to reinvent himself and jump into the next sound: Chicago footwork. Its rapid rhythm hit the same pleasure centers that he had tickled with jungle in his younger years. As he told RBMA,
“Hearing footwork music for the first time, the first thing that hit me about it is the way that it drops, the programming of it. The fact that it’s 160 bpm, it spoke to me in the same way that jungle spoke to me when I was a kid. It kind of just made sense; I was mixing jungle and footwork together in sets and I thought, ‘Let me just take some of these old classics and make some edits,’ and it just made total sense—it blends perfectly.”
Coles released his footwork and jungle edits under the moniker Phillip D. Kick and collaborated with fellow stuttering beatmaker Machinedrum, once again achieving notoriety and subsequently scrapping it to chase his next musical pursuit.
I hesitate to claim that Coles has come full circle with his Om Unit project (which he’s been developing since 2008), since that would imply a closed circuit; in reality, he’s constantly evolving and it’s anyone’s guess what style he will absorb next. With Om Unit, however, he has combined the most prominent elements of his prior endeavors: boom-bap hip hop beats, dizzying footwork rhythms, and, of course, jungle-inspired breaks and basslines.
While Coles has proven his expertise in other genres, he has drum & bass in his core and it shines through as the common thread in all of his projects. He illustrated his deep knowledge of drum & bass history and its impact on his own style in a recent FACT TV feature, where he cited a number of fundamental drum & bass tracks in his roundup of ten influential records from his collection. As Om Unit, he has releases on legendary drum & bass labels Metalheadz and Exit Records, among others. Coles is far from a drum & bass purist, but he certainly has the big guns behind his pioneering style.
Add to that list of big guns local drum & bass party Elements, the longest running dance night in the Boston area. Nearing its fifteenth anniversary this January, the party’s mammoth roster of past guests featuring both timeless legends and rising stars makes Elements a trustworthy local authority on drum & bass.
This Thursday, Elements will host Om Unit behind the decks for what will unquestionably be a smashing set of jungle and footwork with a UK edge. If it’s anything like the DJ set of the week, above (his guest mix for Rinse FM last month — skip to the 15-minute mark for his cue), we can expect enough frenetic beats, wonky basslines, and masterful mixing skills to drop jaws and rouse even the laziest feet.
ELEMENTS WITH OM UNIT
W/ RESIDENTS CROOK, LENORE, AND FOX
512 MASS. AVE.