In the decade since Parisian beat-maker Arnaud ‘Onra‘ Bernard bought his first MPC in 2003, he has not only explored several distinct music genres, but, with his already impressive discography of six full length albums, helped shape their development too. After releasing ‘Tribute‘, his debut collaboration with Quetzal, Bernard began work on the project that would elevate his status as a one-to-watch beatsmith, returning from a trip to Vietnam with a haul of 30 records from the 60s and 70s. ‘Chinoiseries‘, the album born from this find, replayed masterfully chosen Chinese samples with a signature neck- snapping swagger. ‘The Anthem’, the LP’s standout flip, quickly became an alternative anthem of choice for many a discerning DJ and currently boats over 600,000 YouTube plays.
Concept albums culled from Bollywood samples, 80s soul cuts and a ‘Chinoiseries’ sequel followed, but it is Onra’s latest project that has caught even his most clued up compadres off guard.
Over the last couple of years, Onra has been performing live shows with Buddy Sativa, who adds live keys to his infectious MPC antics, and, during rehearsals, the pair discussed their mutual love of jazz. ‘Indica’, their first collaborative lean in this direction, appeared on Sativa’s ‘Deus Ex Machina‘ LP on Favorite Records in 2011. Since then, their experiments continued, and this week, thanks to All City Records, a spiritual, deep jazz LP under the Yatha Bhuta Jazz Combo alias will be released.
The album opens with ‘Universe Is Love’, a tribute to Lonnie Liston Smith, whose ‘Visions Of A New World’ album is one of Onra’s personal favourites. The creative process employed on this cut and throughout the set begins with a crafted drum track or bass tone, onto which sheets of instrumentation are layered; mistakes, anomalies and off-kilter happenings are encouraged and embraced. The lone vocal on this otherwise instrumental outing comes from Brooklyn poet Aja Monet on ‘The Time is Now’, an introspective, questioning delivery that recalls the Nation African Liberation Arts Ensemble‘s masterpiece, ‘Children’.
A chance meeting with the late artist Mati Klarwein‘s son at an exhibition in Dublin led to the completion of this coveted package: the LP is beautifully housed by Klarwein’s ‘Conceptual Tree‘ painting, joining the ranks of other landmark albums graced by Klarwein’s magnificent art, including Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew‘, Santana’s ‘Abraxas‘ and The Last Poets’ ‘This Is Madness‘.
02. UFO Paradise
03. Dark Karma
05. The Muse Inside
06. Endangered Species
07. Honey, Hash, Rose
08. The Garden Of Heavenly Delights
09. The Time Is Now
10. Cos (x)
11. Untitled (afrojazz)
12. Wandering, Wondering
Words by Gavin Kendrick