||DJ Oil of the Troublemakers present Phantom his sophomore solo album out on BBE.
BBE is proud to present Phantom, the sophomore solo album from Lionel Corsini, aka DJ Oil. A true veteran of the underground music and party scene in his native Marseille, Lionel released his well-received solo debut as recently as 2012 (Black Notes for French label Discograph) but is probably better known as one part of The Troublemakers, who had the (probably unique?) distinction of being signed to both the legendary ‘90s house label Guidance and the most famous of all jazz labels, Blue Note. The latter didn’t work out too satisfactorily for Lionel, who found himself constrained by Blue Note’s corporate ways as part of a major and yearning for the freedom he’d had as an independent artist at an independent
Nonetheless, the trajectory from Guidance to Blue Note gives you some idea of the range of Oil’s music. Phantom (so-called because ‘all these tracks live on my computer like ghosts, waiting to get out, and some never did get out’) begins with an incredibly low-slung mutant rhythm’n’blues instrumental (imagine Link Wray taking guitar lessons from John Lee Hooker on acid), and ends with a kind of abstract spiritual… and seems to take in pretty much the whole spectrum of black music on the way, music in which Lionel is thoroughly steeped (his father was a collector of soul and R&B, a passion that has continued to course through the Corsini blood), ending up somewhere altogether other-worldly. It’s a dark, edgy, angst-ridden soundscape (‘why don’t I just drop out?’ asks a voice, repeatedly) that invokes the untrammelled energies of ‘60s and ‘70s Black radicalism, animated jive-talk juxtaposed with the soothing tones of Africanist scholars discoursing on ‘rhythm’…
As singers are not to the forefront and it’s hardly a ‘dance’ record, Phantom is likely to be labelled ‘trip-hop’, but it’s far meatier than the usual trip-hop fare, and owes more to hip-hop itself in its passion for recontextualizing sound. Furthermore, contrary to the initial assumption (based on its diverse sounds and gritty analogue ‘feel’) that it must be a sample-based record, DJ Oil has recorded the whole album live: ‘sometimes at parties, sometimes at home, but never at the mixing desk.’ With a few exceptions any samples are his own creations: beats, percussion, basslines, Moog and other synth sounds are all played by Lionel, while many of the voices we encounter are street scenes, chat, collaborators met during Lionel’s extensive world travels, more phantoms preserved as files on DJ Oil’s laptop. ‘This album is like a collection of spontaneous paintings, not re-touched,’ says Lionel, ‘that’s why there are so many “accidents” in the music you hear.’ Any ‘accidents’ are surely serendipitous, and result in real sonic diversity, as the music veers from mood to mood, constantly referencing music and cultures from Africa and across the Atlantic as well as urban France, past and present, and a hint of the future too.
From country blues, through township jive and Rahsaan Roland Kirk-style ‘flute’ vocalizations, with the occasional nod to four-to-the-floor house, DJ Oil runs the musical gamut, using modern technology to recreate the virtual orchestra existing in his head and gifting us an astonishingly assured and rather exceptional album, which surely should break this stalwart of the French underground scene to a larger international audience. Making up for the ‘lost years’ with Blue Note, Lionel Corsini’s creative juices are clearly flowing freely at the moment. Listen out especially for the track featuring rapper Josh (and singer Hope Malike) from Zimbabwean band Monkey Nuts: this is another DJ Oil project with a full album also forthcoming soon from BBE.