By Jimmy Ness
Deep In The Night crystallizes the cheesy but affable Romanticism of the pre-Internet world. Onra’s new EP replicates the vibe of 80s and early 90s R&B, well before it stagnated into a series of David Guetta remixes. This five-track project conjures images of Jheri Curls, New Jack Swing and synchronized dance moves — the post-disco sound complete with snappy drum beats and retro synths. There’s even an expertly played keyboard solo.
For an artist deeply inspired by nostalgia, the French Vietnamese beat-maker always experiments with new sounds and states his sole mission is progression. Yet vintage vocal samples stop the album from sounding too lonely. Rarely wading into the mainstream pop landscape, he lambently glides over funk, electro, rap, Chinese pop and even Bollywood.
Onra has vastly evolved beyond his 2006 debut, a soul-inspired hip-hop album that led to forced J Dilla comparisons. But he quickly shrugged that off when he distilled 30 vintage Chinese and Vietnamese vinyl records into the two-part Chinoiseries. People also lump him in the same category as Daft Punk because they are both French and like Funk, but Onra claims that he’s barely listened to them.
The new EP doesn’t quite match the retro revelry of the future funk of Onra's previous album Long Distance, probably because of its brief runtime and my appreciation for Earth, Wind and Fire over “Cooleyhighharmony.” But there are still some jams on here. After Hours sounds like a soundtrack to playing under sprinkling fire hydrants and the synth-heavy title song is the perfect companion to Mobbdeen’s gay clubbing adventures. R&B hasn’t completely lost its charm.