DJ Oil : French Underground Music
Marseille-based musician/DJ/producer, Lionel Corsini aka DJ Oil is renowned for his unconventional blend of jazz, house and beats. Recorded in studio or live, the beatmakers compositions surprise us with unusual vocals and rhythms melting, mixing hip hop, house and African music. A pioneer on the made-in-France house scene, his former band Troublemakers had the very unique experience of being signed to both the legendary ‘90s house label Guidance and the most famous of all jazz labels, Blue Note.
One of the most emblematic DJ’s of the French electro stage for 15 years, Corsini, enhanced by the press for his first album “Black notes” released in 2012, came back last year with a second opus, “Phantom”, reaching 14 000 copies sold in two months.
Phantom (so-called because ‘all these tracks live on my computer like ghosts, waiting to get out, and some never did get out’) begins with an incredibly low-slung mutant rhythm’n’blues instrumental (imagine Link Wray taking guitar lessons from John Lee Hooker on acid), and ends with a kind of abstract spiritual… and seems to take in pretty much the whole spectrum of black music on the way, music in which Lionel is thoroughly steeped (his father was a collector of soul and R&B, a passion that has continued to course through the Corsini blood), ending up somewhere altogether other-worldly.
It’s a dark, edgy, angst-ridden soundscape (‘why don’t I just drop out?’ asks a voice, repeatedly) that invokes the untrammelled energies of ‘60s and ‘70s Black radicalism, animated jive-talk juxtaposed with the soothing tones of Africanist scholars discoursing on ‘rhythm’… As singers are not to the forefront and it’s hardly a ‘dance’ record, Phantom is likely to be labelled ‘trip-hop’, but it’s far meatier than the usual trip-hop fare, and owes more to hip-hop itself in its passion for re-contextualizing sound.
‘Phantom’ represents the ghosts in his laptop. Lost tracks found and reworked using Ableton Live with nearly everything played live (by DJ Oil, himself). If you like your production analogue, gritty and warm and your music to take you to different times and places then you’ll feel this, it grows into you. Listen out for the track featuring rapper Josh (and singer Hope Malike) from Zimbabwean band Monkey Nuts.
From country blues, through township jive and Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style ‘flute’ vocalizations, with the occasional nod to four-to-the-floor house, DJ Oil runs the musical gamut, using modern technology to recreate the virtual orchestra existing in his head and gifting us an astonishingly assured and rather exceptional album, which surely should break this stalwart of the French underground scene to a larger international audience.
You’ll also hear more of the eclectic sounds of DJ Oil with his recent foray into composing music for films in the documentary, ‘Sour Grapes‘. Appropriately, “Sour Grapes” is packaged as a sort of luxury caper narrative, complete with handsome lensing of various enviable locales and a score that runs a droll gamut from quasi-retro lounge music to the kind of backing that might’ve accompanied a mid-1960s Agatha Christie adaptation.
Highly atmospheric and engaging from start to finish, eclectic in both tempo and feel, the album would probably be described by “proper” music journos as “afro-centric retro future soul”. All I’ll say is this: if you’re a fan of Shadow, Madlib and/or obscure 1970s movies, you should definitely give this a listen.
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Set the mood right in your TV, Film or Advert with the eclectic sounds of DJ Oil..