Oliver Ho has spent close to 2 decades now, as a DJ and a producer defining the very depth of his music in the best way that he knows. His diversity over the years has seen him explore Techno and House in as many given styles as you would care to imagine, ranging from the deep tribal sounds of the “Universal” album, to the dark abstract noises of his Veil album, to the funkier house sounds of his Birdland project. From his work on Blueprint records in 1996 to further releases on Surface, Drumcode, Meta, Chango, Light and Dark and Continual, Oliver has just about covered every cosmic division of the genre.
In 2010, Oliver launched Wires, his new label which explores the areas in between techno, experimental, post-punk and industrial new wave. The amalgamation of all these ideas, inspiration and sounds have been distilled down into his current Raudive project.
The Raudive 'sound', takes the percussion of his earlier releases over the last 15 years and mutates it into a slower deeper groove; a fusion of funk and house layered playfully with the electronics of techno. The debut record on Klang Elektronik, “The Audio EP” was closely followed by many releases featuring the Raudive sound evolving on record labels such as Klang, Music Man, Pokerflat, Cocoon, We Are and Macro. Oliver’s unique sound has gained praise from many djs such as Trevor Jackson, Chloe, Laurant Garnier, Ricardo Villalobos and Sven Vath.
'A System of Objects' is Oliver's second LP release as Raudive on Stefan Goldmann and Finn Johannsen's Berlin based label Macro recordings. First previewed on Soundcloud in September this year, and released in November, Oliver has has opted for a rawer, more experimental approach to this album. And although some of the tracks on this album aren’t entirely removed from the mood of his Raudive debut, Chamber Music, in their murky layering of sounds, A Chamber of Objects still manages to weld together minimal techno and house with classical, Afro and tribal tinges, with the pulsating rawness and industrial brittle that make this outing a particularly memorable highlight.
The haunting playful 'Afro Wig' is a Kalimba-laden melodic, bassline driven track punctuated by some sinister synths along the way. The dark and cinematic 'Blood Hair' that follows sounds almost Asian in some strange way, (almost like the opening sequence to an Indonesian horror flick). The album continues down this dark and haunting path with 'Carcass', the string-laden 'Dusk'. Visceral and dancey, 'Visitor' in the middle is both effervescent and percussive in playful Raudive fashion.
'Fragments' take it back into ambient territory while the percussive and semi-jazzual 'Furniture' brings the album into the "playground" with it's cheeky sax rants, funky bass and guitar licks and vocal interventions. This one's easily by far my favourite off the album and also the point where the album gets more interesting too and highlights Oliver Ho's experimental diversity and cheekiness to a very large degree.
The percussive onslaught continues on 'Missing In Action', with its latin-esque undertones, again layered mischievously with a lazy melody and that little hint of a vocal that creeps in and out of it through the length of it's hypnotic head-nodding four and a half minutes. The tempo's scale upwards again on 'Ruins', yet another percussion driven tune; this one taking a very 80s industrial new wave approach in it's entire arrangement.
'Slowing Time' does as it suggests and chugs along sexily and suggestively and yes, rather playfully too. Small changes continues in slo-tempo mode before the electro tinged 'Summoning' wraps it up in the darker undertones that kick-started the album.
Oliver puts it rather mildly when he says, “Even though I make stuff that is supposedly for DJs to play, a lot of my stuff isn’t very ‘dance-y’. It’s more dance music put through a filter.”
Whether you end up dancing to this or not, 'A System of Objects' is guaranteed to garner some emotional response - for myself, most of it was positive. Probably because of Oliver Ho's tendency to weld mischief into the fray and open my mind even further to the fact that intelligent, experimental electronic musicianship like this still continues to exist and turn the pages of the industry like a book that you just can't put down. It also explores contemporary society’s dependence on technology and maps an obliquely constructed world in which you lose all certainty of what is nature and what is design. In fact it reminds me of what Kraftwerk used to do once, and a path I hope they will take again at some point in their career.
And since it's Christmas time and this is released on CD as well, I'd recommend it as something you could wrap lovingly and place under the tree, for anyone who loves their techno to be intelligent and a tad mischievous. A final point some may want to take note of is the cover art on the CD, which is adapted from a still taken from the Maskencollagen series of photography by celebrated artist Jens Ullrich and features a booklet containing 20 further prints by him.
I'll take this opportunity to say Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone too and hope that more of this daring mischief continues to take place in 2014.
02. Slowing Time
03. African Wig
09. Blood And Hair
10. Missing In Action
12. Small Changes