By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY – Pioneering producer and DJ Om Unit has been on his journey through sound since around the early 1990s. Throughout that time his path has taken him through numerous progressions and changes to name and craft, and he has traversed countless sonic barricades along the way.
Real name Jim Coles, he began producing jungle in the ‘90s and then gravitated towards the art of hip hop and turntablism, donning the moniker 2Tall, under which he released numerous albums. It was in 2009 that he became Om Unit, with his debut release appearing on a Fabric compilation and then shortly after, a white-label remix of dubstep legend Joker’s “Digidesign.” His first EP was called The Corridor and was released on Plastician’s label Terrorhythm.
His first full-length LP, Threads came out in 2013 on Civil Music and he followed that up in 2014 with another album entitled Inversion on the mighty d’n’b imprint Metalheadz. In 2011 Coles started his own label, Cosmic Bridge, with a focus on pushing forward thinking jungle and bass music from the likes of TMSV, Kromestar, DJ Madd, Danny Scrilla. In 2017 Om Unit’s third full-length was released on his own label, entitled Self.
“[Self] really was a reflection of my personal process at the time,” Coles says, citing overcoming personal issues including moving cities as some of the influencers of this process.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome in hindsight. There was no real deliberate process or headspace as such, it was merely what happened when i was working in the studio, I think it was quite honest work, perhaps just deconstructing previous processes and ideas and I guess getting back to a true follow up to Threads.”
Coles says that a great deal of the work he has done within the world of drum and bass was about “exorcising a teenage dream as a fan of the movement.” After releasing his music on classic d’n’b imprints like Metalheadz, Doc Scott’s 31 Records and dBridge’s Exit, he felt it was time to come back to something more present, and less nostalgic. It therefore seemed logical to release Self on his own label, in order to keep complete creative control of the project.
In many ways, particularly through his first and second album, and his live performances, Coles does embody the spirit of nostalgia which is a prominent theme in good, modern jungle music. But throughout even his earliest work and now especially on Self, the bedrock of that early influence remains, but he has elevated the sound into new dimensions by dissecting and reimagining those older sounds.
“I honestly feel that the minute we associate our sense-of-self too strongly to any one culture or time period, it can be a slippery slope into a kind of stagnant closed-minded state of being,” Coles says. He continues:
“I think it’s healthy to just keep an open mind to new ideas and try to see where art is coming from. It might not mean we have to like everything but I feel there is something to learn from each new generation. For me, I just see myself embracing new techniques of processing sound in the studio. I’ve been quite enjoying putting a bit more chaos into my music of late, and just trying to be more honest.”
The breadth of his knowledge and awareness of jungle and drum and bass in all their countless facets plays out in the dedicated work he does in the studio, and pours out of him when he’s behind the decks in a live setting, and it is through this approach that Om Unit will solidify himself as a key figure in the genre, now and in years to come.
Om unit plays at the HiFi Club on September 13.HIFI Club, Om Unit