“Only a momma’s boy cares about artwork!” — Omar S / FXHE
If you thought that FXHE Records was just another House or Techno label, think again.
The label’s catalogue pretty much consists of Omar’s releases, occasionally spiced up with a few “guest” EP’s from people like Marcellus Pittman, Roy Davis Jr., Big Strick, Kyle Hall, Norm Talley, OB Ignitt, Luke Hess, and other sharks of the Detroit Techno & House scenes. Each FXHE record is a nod to the people who started it all in the middle of the eighties.
In order to understand FXHE, you need to observe the label in a certain context. While Omar’s early work appears to be ahead of its time, his latest projects are retrospective and nostalgic, while being listened to today, in 2018, despite the booming popularity of “Outsider” House and Techno.
FXHE has always embraced the style of what producers today call “outsider.” This is a testament to the fact that the idea there is a solid idea behind what the label puts out. The artists on it never wanted to be part of the musical zeitgeist. They were never interested in the fads and trends of the industry. They have worked in expressing their own artistic visions. Nothing more, nothing less.
Here are 5 records to get into FXHE.
If you were looking for a release that put the label on the map, it was definitely “002,” an incredibly smooth EP, released back in 2003. This seemingly minimalistic record allowed Omar to showcase his talent in crafting captivating and entrancing nine-minute tracks, with almost no progression, tracks like “Miss You” and “U.” In “002,”
Omar was inclined towards a more organic sound, different from the rawer and rougher style that he developed an interest for later on in his career.
And there’s no secret behind why “002” was popular back in the day — it was innovative and versatile. While the first two tracks “Miss You” and “U” sound like Deep House anthems of the late 00’s and early 10’s, the last track, “Set It Out” is a frenetic Deep House banger but with a heavy Ghettotech spin to it, brought to you by a load of syncopated toms. It almost sounds like a track off Dance Mania.
Not only that, the record remains very relevant today. There have been 7 represses of this EP since 2013, which just pretty much confirms how important this record is fifteen years after its release.
One of the latest LP’s Omar has put out, sounds like a compilation, rather than a thought out album. But let’s be honest, the name of the album pretty much implies it, right?
“The Best” was released on four twelve-inch records that host 11 uncanny tracks, some are even slightly unsettling. Here Omar doesn’t just deliver just a couple of white-label bangers, he explores the murkier and weirder corners of House music. Drum programming has become much more complex, but it didn’t lose any of that “dance floor charisma.” On the contrary, this is an album that needs to be listened as if Omar has nothing to prove to his audience or to his critics. The production is snappy at times, but it remains very funk-driven. To a person that is about to dive into the man’s/label’s catalog, it’s great to listen to “002” and “The Best!” in contrast. The latter is much more “in-your-face” and audacious. In this LP, you’ll also find a few collaborations with long-term friends of Omar’s like Kyle Hall and Big Strick.
Two years after the label released its first record, Marcellus Pittman released an eponymous EP, which still receives heavy rotation today. “M. Pittman” features three head-nodding tracks, which go hand in hand with the aesthetics of the label.
At first glance this is just a stripped down Detroit Techno release, with a “Housier” drum programming. But after having listened to the release a few times, it becomes apparent that the tracks have no basslines. Instead, Pittman just cranked the sustain on the kick drums. The decision to strip the songs of bass transformed them into really tribal and sultry compositions.
Pittman released a follow-up EP a year later called “M.Pittman #2,” which is a more laid-back project with much lighter percussion and less obtrusive kick drums. Both “M. Pittman” and “M. Pittman #2” are significant milestones on the FXHE roadmap, since they remain relevant today. Pittman’s early work is now receiving a lot of attention especially from the Russian House and Techno scene, and can often be heard in the DJ sets of popular artists like Nina Kraviz and OL.
Big Strick is a name you’ll see a lot on Omar’s label and “7 Days” is among his most noteworthy projects. The EP flirts with Afrocentric motives, especially “Black Talk,” which touches on the social injustices that the African-American communities are facing in modern-day America.
“7 Days” sounds more like a compilation of artistic statements that aren’t destined to be played in clubs, but rather given maximum attention while listened to at home. Especially since only one track is longer than four minutes.
The entire record is moody and introspective, a style very specific to Big Strick, an aficionado of percussive, minor, but self-assertive House music.
Another eclectic compilation from the label head himself released back in 2006. Yet again, this record can’t be called “thought out,” and neither can Omar be called an “Album artist,” but that doesn’t in any way diminish the artistic value of this release.
The highlight of “006” is “Churchill,” a track that can surely be called among Omar’s most memorable tracks. It’s a nasty and murky banger with a very heavy, almost gabba-esque kick drum and a really catchy bassline. This isn’t the main mood of the record. Omar very skillfully plays with IDM-ish themes in “Polynesia” and “Micronesia,” while two other two tracks feature almost naïve melodies, which nevertheless contain lots of raw energy that is highly appreciated on the dance floor.
Other notable mentions:
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