Various Artists

Departures, Vol. 1

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Following the success of its many other series of various-artists mix albums released throughout the mid- to late-'90s, Om Records ventured into slightly new territory in 2002 when it released the first volume in its Departures series. For the most part, Om had always specialized in house music, not traditional house such as what comes out of Chicago and New York, but rather West Coast house. Thus, the music is generally much more organic, light, and carefree than most house. However, with Departures, Om indeed "departs" a bit from its usual style, venturing into territory heavily influenced by jazz and breakbeats -- or, as Om describes the style in this album's subtitle, "Global Expeditions in Nu Jazz + Broken Beats." This isn't exactly new territory for Om; the Om Lounge and Mushroom Jazz series had also flirted with jazz-inflected house. But Departures heads even further in this direction, incorporating yet more jazz motifs and breakbeats. Om recruits producers such as Jazzanova, Tosca (remixed by the Funky Lowlives), and Fragment Orchestra -- in addition to Om regulars King Kooba and Afro-Mystik -- to attain this nu jazz and "broken beat" style, and the result is truly engaging, particularly for anyone who enjoys such labels as Compost, perhaps the world's leading exporter of this style in 2002. It also helps that this collection is mixed, making it a much more continuous listen. Though indeed a "departure" from Om's usual style (perhaps best exemplified by the Sounds of Om series), the first Departures volume is a promising venture for the San Francisco label.

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