Onra’s newest release fails to innovate sound

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | March 16, 2017

Onra is a French producer with a penchant for plundering music. His sources are wide and varied. He is widely known for his greatest success, the Chinoiseries.

The first Chinoiseries release was a major hit; it was an album in which all of the samples were drawn from old Vietnamese music, television and film. The cuts were spliced together over some well-arranged grooves ranging from African tribal drums to classic ‘80s riffs.

On March 10, Onra released Chinoiseries pt.3, the final part of the trilogy. Again, he weaves together these ancient-sounding, Asiatic samples into smooth, knocking grooves. Again, there are these great vocal cuts that only enhance the hazy, dark, cinematic character of this project. But even with the great production value and the well formed songs, this project seems to lack the soul and experimentalism of the first two.

I realize that as a reviewer, it is somewhat lazy of me to call the third entry in a trilogy “not original enough.” At this point it’s a trope to call the third of something uninspired. And I understand that obviously there should be a consistency throughout the projects. But I sincerely believe that Chinoseries pt.3 doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the rest of the projects. It is simply another entry in an already good series.

The first Chinoiseries was a revelation. Artists like the Wu-Tang Clan had already ventured into production that pulled from Asian sources but never had such a distinctly Asiatic hip-hop production come out. Every song was a joy.

There are some great beats on Chinoseries pt.3 as well. “The Final Chapter” plays with lush strumming, a whistling harp and some chopped chanting. It works together surprisingly well and can be quite thrilling to listen to.

“Loyalty” is another great song. Onra uses a sinister piano riff along with some matching percussion to make this sweet, but somewhat spooky flood of sound. It’s a song that is fun to get lost in. Each aspect — the drums, the quiet, singing voice that fades in near the middle, even the snare — is like a separate piece of a painting. The more you listen, the more you find to appreciate.

At this point though, his style of music has been exposed and played with to the point that just more of the same isn’t enough to be exciting. Onra needed to continue riffing on his style, broadening it instead of just relying on it for more songs.

I hope that Onra continues to expand his style as time goes on. He is an incredibly talented producer with a deft hand at sampling and drum programming. He can definitely make some phenomenal songs.

I recommend that everyone check out some of the Chinoseries – listen to the first one. That project is an experience that you will remember.

I also hope that people don’t discount Chinoseries pt.3 because of my somewhat lukewarm reaction to it. It is the most polished of the three and the most technically produced.

There isn’t a single bad beat on there. Onra figured out the formula for how to fit an old Vietnamese sample into a 4/4 beat pattern, and he can seemingly do it on command at this point. It just isn’t as exciting to listen to anymore.

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