It was three years ago, that multi-instrumentalist Lionel Corsini dawned the role of DJ Oil, and released his debut album Black Notes on French label Discograph. Black Notes was well received by critics. That’s no surprise. After all, DJ Oil was an experienced artist.
Way before Lionel Corsini became DJ Oil, he was part of The Troublemakers. They released their debut E.P., Exodus, on Guidance Recordings. A year later, The Troublemakers released their debut album, Doubts and Convictions on Guidance Recordings. Three years later, The Troublemakers sophomore album was released on one of jazz’s legendary labels, Blue Note Records.
Following the release of Doubts and Convictions, The Troublemakers released two singles in 2002. They were Too Old To Die and Get Misunderstood. Then two years later, The Troublemakers made their Blue Note Records debut with Express Way.
2004 saw the release of The Troublemakers’ 2004 sophomore album, Express Way. It was well received by critics. Some critics forecast a bright future for The Troublemakers. However, Express Way was the last album The Troublemakers released.
Although The Troublemakers were no more, Lionel Corsini was still involved in music. He played an active part in Marseille’s music and party scene. Lionel also worked as producer and arranger. Then in 2012, Lionel Corsini became DJ Oil and released his debut album, Black Notes.
Three years after the release of Black Notes, DJ Oil returns with his sophomore album, Phantom, which will be released on BBE Music on 19th January 2015. Phantom is an eclectic, old school album.
There’s a reason for this. DJ Oil isn’t like many modern day producers. No. For Phantom, DJ Oil recorded the twelve tracks live. Unlike many modern producers, DJ Oil doesn’t rely on samples. No. He laid down the bass lines, beats, percussion, Moog and other synth sounds on Phantom. DJ Oil also uses a series of voices, street scenes and collaborations in the twelve tracks. These were taped during Lionel’s world travels. They, just like the songs that became Phantom, DJ Oil says “live on my computer like ghosts, waiting to get out, and some never did get out.” That’s until the 19th February 2015, when DJ Oil returns with Phantom, his sophomore album.
The moody, dramatic, old school R&B of Yes It Is opens Phantom. Drums pound, guitars quiver and shiver and DJ Oil vamps, yelps and hollers his way through the arrangement. Banks of synths join the rhythm section and a blistering, searing guitar in producing a wall of sound for DJ Oil. Against this grinding arrangement, his tender vocal flits in and out. All the time, this down and dirty, groove laden arrangement is reminiscent of Prince.
Straight away, DJ Oil gets into a groove on Drop Out. A dark, pulsating arrangement unfolds. Atop the arrangement one of DJ Oil’s Phantom vocal nuggets proves a compelling, somewhat disturbing accompaniment. Washes of haunting sounds and percussion sweep. They’re part of an angst ridden cry for help, wheres DJ Oil seems to draw inspiration from Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and classic hip hop.
Against a pulsating, moody arrangement a haunting, captivating female vocal sets the scene. It’s against this mesmeric backdrop, a vocal and broody bass combine. They grab your attention. Then later, a swaggering, jive taking vocal enters. It picks up where the equal rights activists of the sixties and seventies left off. Tinged with irony, it mocks the so called “white” establishment. This fusion of irony and social comment results in a hypnotic backdrop, and proves a powerful combination.
Against a backdrop of African drums, the arrangement to Paolo unfolds. Just like previous tracks, snippets of vocal sit atop the arrangement. Afrobeat influenced guitars chime and chirp. Sometimes, they briefly, head in the direction of surf guitar. Later, a myriad of sound effects, scratches, percussion and vocal samples flit in and out, of what’s a captivating track full of surprises aplenty.
At 120 beats per minute, Seasons has a dance-floor friendly tempo. That’s helped no end by the thunderous 4/4 drums. They’re augmented by subtle bursts of bells, percussion and sound effects. Gradually, they grow in power and the arrangement unfolds. It becomes powerful, dramatic and mesmeric. Then a sample of a scholar discussion rhythm is added. When it drops out, instruments and effects are added. Among them are a driving guitar, synths and sweeps of white noise. Later, sound effects flit in and out. At one point, there’s even a nod to Talking Heads. Mostly, though, Seasons is dance-floor friendly music with a twist, that’s bound to keep dancers on their toes.
Echoism is best described as a moody, broody, cinematic soundscape. Quite simply, it’s a six minute adventure in sound. The music is variously dramatic, eerie, gothic and spiritual. That’s quite a combination. Mind you, what do you expect when you combine elements of slow, spacey funk, downtempo and world music are combined with ethereal, sci-fi sounds? This unlikely combination results in a haunting, moody, otherworldly cinematic sound that’s Phantom’s finest hour.
Just like other tracks on Phantom, the arrangement to Beetlejuice is broody, moody, dark and dramatic. Washes of synths join drums, percussion and a vocal sample. It’s soon replaced by a swaggering rap. Then when it drops out, it’s replaced by the joyous sound of a group of female African vocalists. They add another contrast to what’s a roller coaster of eclectic sounds and influences. Each of them flit and out of the arrangement, as DJ Oil continues to spring surprises.
The cinematic Plastic Man sounds like a paranoia fuelled track. With its sinister, whispery vocal, it’s akin to the sound of someone unravelling before your eyes. Atop the arrangement sits pounding drums, washes of synths and a hypnotic holler. Soon, drums gallop along. They’ve a much sharper sound. In the distance, sci-fi synths play. They’re joined briefly, by a coke fuelled, comedic vocal sample. As the arrangement grinds along, a myriad of sounds escape from its midst. Some are disturbing, and reminiscent of a bad acid trip. It’s as if the Plastic Man has tried to open the doors of perception too far.
Le Rythme De La Vie is another Afro-influenced track. As the drums gallop along, percussion and sighs fill the gap. Meanwhile, a bass sits down in the mix, helping to provide the rhythm of life. Vocal samples flit in and out, while percussion and sound effects punctuate the track. Although slightly more minimalist than the previous track, it’s just as effective and later, eerie and dramatic.
A myriad of futuristic, sci-fi sounds bound along the arrangement to Burn It. Its hypnotic, mesmeric sounds like it belongs in a remake of Blade Runner. That’s until the vocal enters. It soon drops out, and the arrangement builds and grows. Before long, another dance-floor friendly track unfolds. While this version of Burn It is perfect for the album, it’s a track that’s ripe for a remix. In the right hands, DJ Oil could have a potential dance-floor anthem on his hands.
Crispy beats provide the backdrop to a bravado fuelled vocal on New Lord. The beats provide a minimalist backdrop to a vocal that’s equal parts bravado, drama and machismo. As the vocal drops out, the earnest vocal of the New Lord sings “God have mercy.” Meanwhile, the arrangement churns and grinds along. Later, a gospel tinged vocal replies half in earnest, half in jest “God have mercy.” Bravado it seems is omnipresent, and this isn’t one of the New Lord’s followers.
A Day closes Phantom, DJ Oil’s sophomore album. The ominous sound of pounding drums is joined by flourishes of quivering flutes. They’re joined by a tender, ethereal vocal. It’s a contrast to the drums. Soon, keyboards, percussion and a guitar enter. So do harmonies. They provide a soulful backdrop, as DJ Oil’s shows another side of his music. As this soulful side unfolds, the arrangement takes a brief diversion via jazz. Mostly, though, DJ Oil keeps this soulful, on Phantom’s finale.
Three years after the release of his debut album, Black Notes, DJ Oil returns with his sophomore album, Phantom. It will be released on 19th January 2015. Phantom features what were previously ten ghosts in the machine.
Previously, the songs on Phantom lay on DJ Oil’s computer. They were what DJ Oil describes as “ghosts, waiting to get out.” Other ghosts included the voices, street scenes and collaborations in the twelve tracks. They were taped during Lionel’s world travels. That’s where these ghosts remained, until the exorcism that was Phantom. Now these ghosts have come to life on Phantom. It’s a captivating album from the former member of The Troublemakers.
What makes Phantom such a captivating album is that, mostly, DJ Oil eschewed the use of samples. DJ Oil laid down the bass lines, beats, percussion, Moog and other synth sounds on Phantom. That’s a rarity nowadays. Most producers rely on samples. Another rarity was that the tracks on Phantom were recorded live. Again, that is unusual in modern music. So is the inclusion of what DJ Oil descries as “happy accidents.” Inadvertently, they improved Phantom. In a world where most producers will edit tracks to the nth degree, this is another rarity. It however, worked to DJ Oil’s advantage.
The “happy accidents” DJ Oil describes, play their part in the success of Phantom’s eclectic sound. Indeed, eclectic is almost an understatement. There’s everything from Afrobeat, country blues, electronic, house, jazz, psychedelia, rural French music and soul. Hip hop and trip hop play an important part in Phantom’s sound. Given such eclecticism, trying to categorise Phantom isn’t easy. However, hip hop and trip hop are two of the strongest influences. So too, is house. There’s even a couple of floor-fillers on Phantom. All this makes Phantom a captivating and eclectic album.
Given Phantom is such an eclectic album, then maybe this will be album that sees DJ Oil make his long awaited breakthrough? After all, Phantom is a musical roller coaster through genres courtesy of DJ Oil.