'All Filter' - OJ Law [ALBUM REVIEW]
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Malaysian electronica pop maestro OJ Law returns this year with an album full of surprising experimentation, moods for all seasons and a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows.
GENRE: ELECTRO POP / ALT R&B / INDIE POP RELEASE DATE: 28 FEB 2020
A long-time name in the Malaysian music scene who has worked with the likes of Liyana Fizi and has made his rounds on the mainstream charts, OJ Law is pretty much a household name to the average indie local music crowd.
For the uninitiated, most of you may know his more popular tracks like ‘Introverts’ and 'Tongue-tied' from his release of Let’s Be Adult (2015). But take a deep dive into his older works - for example - Law (2006), and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised at the diversity of his bedroom musicianship days. His brand of alternative indie is always punctuated with upbeat guitar riffs, interesting drum sequences, reverberating synths, pristine vocal harmonies, and catchy lyricism.
Whether he’s tinkering around with a multitude of different genres and styles such as the heavier leanings of indie rock, doo-wop 60’s discopop or symphonic electronica, OJ Law’s constant wandering for new soundscapes is never disappointing. It’s easy to forget that behind the bright neon signage that trails along synonymously with OJ Law’s name, is the very same musician who isn’t afraid of getting dirty with experimentation or belting it out to lo-fi early 2000s cuts.
Moving forward to the present day, OJ Law might’ve gone digital, but his organic indie qualities always tend to shine through in his diverse composition.
Here's a track by track review of OJ Law’s All Filter:
OJ’s voice bellows out a hearty welcome into his midnight-tinged world of trip-hop cuts, moody sequences, 8-bit freakouts and his signature mixture of nostalgia. He sings as though he’s extending an arm into the vast microcosm of space, loneliness being the only emotion left. Float along through this intro, and slide on your way out into the next track with ease.
Black Cab hits surprisingly hard, with reverberating beats that’s only boosted by the introduction of the sound of organic drums, a horns section blowing into the night and the twinkling of keys dancing through an explosive crescendo. It’s an 8-bit fantasy that isn’t afraid to dip its toes into the frenetic energy from the likes of the witch house genre, yet it remains effortlessly ebullient. The track is a texturous sonic soundscape to behold.
Feels Feels is a step away from the murkiness of KL streets, and into a strange parade-esque turn that will have you nodding along to the beat. It’s a lighthearted mood, yet the song doesn't fail to deliver an interesting twist. Everything swells up together into a swirling cacophony of sounds that trips you out with his masterful panning. There’s this trippy slo-mo bit towards the end where OJ’s voice transforms into a psychotropic chant as he repeats the lines “and it feels like it’s forever”. It draws you into this strange limbo and just as it quickly as it begins, the song distorts out into an unsettling nothingness.
A grandiose love song that strips back on the electronic experimentation to make space for a sensual entree about companionship akin to a far away vacation. Bass-heavy and dramatic, he sings about the comfort of being in one’s company, wholesome domestic shenanigans, and the simplicity of love. The masterful layering of his vocal harmonies and a simple beat goes a long way in this song. The emotions run high, and it's hard to ignore the passion in his singing. The subtle blooming of strings floats into the song seamlessly, creating a memorable, grand love song for the ages.
Dear Luna OJ Law’s lullaby to a past that you can't return to is a soaring yet sombre tune. Soraya Taib’s soft vocals add texture with her harmonies, and it makes for a pleasant listening experience. The lyrics are memorable and easy to sing-along to, too!. The twinkling keys and bass colours the song with a sunset hue, with enough warmth that just might make you smile. If you're looking for a song to end the day with, “Dear Luna” is the perfect outro - with sleepy vibes and a lo-fi feel to the production, it's designed to make you feel like missing a memory while it's still happening.
A heavy electronica track that doesn’t hesitate to pull you in a trance, all the while maintaining its funk-like punches and The Voidz-esque vocal takes that are reminiscent of a hazy night out; everyone’s singing along at the club, but no one has any idea as to what they’re chanting along to. It feels like a throwback of sorts to OJ Law’s subtle humor in his music- see: his track “I couldn’t get it up” from his debut album “Law” (2006), and its moments like these where one’s personality really shines through in their music. It’s a great breakaway from the intensity of the previous tracks, and we’re brought back to a classic OJ Law dance track. It’s effortless, and pays homage to Malaysian culture in a cool way. Is it an analogy? I have no idea. I just want to hear this track blasting through Arte Bar and watch kacip club goers lose their minds.
Burning Out is a spectacular take on society and the long-standing commitments we make just to get by. As the closing of the album, it encapsulates a variety of moods that make for one memorable journey. The simplicity in the song’s composition does the message justice; a relatable anthem for the working class and the hardworking stuck in a relentless cycle. The accompanying music video to this track is a love-letter to the essential workers of the gig economy, which was released during the first phase of the MCO. It's a heart-warming moment that acts as a solace from the unforgiving realities of growing up. On another note- hearing an entire OJ Law track completely written as to be played by a band is a different kind of magic on its own- it feels like coming home after a long time of wondering
All Filter is the testament to the sweet nostalgic ring that’s often found within OJ Law’s music, infused with his unique sort of Malaysian DNA- much like most of OJ Law’s music, nostalgia plays a crucial role in the mood setting that sets up for the stories in his music. Does it feel like you’re transported into a very specific time in the local english indie scene; where Liyana Fizi is still the quintessential poster girl for the local indie scene, Bassment Syndicate hadn’t gone into an indefinite hiatus, The Wknd was better known an indie media name and Dirgahayu was at its prime. I know it sounds like a mismatch of different eras, but you’ll find that there’s probably an OJ Law album to match every season of Malaysian indie in the 2000s. So what about “All Filter”?
Expect a mellow ride, rather than his usual frenetic, high-energy performances. It’s an album that’s easy enough on the ears to be picked up by the average person, but it's also a fun record that holds up enough weight and nuance all the same. Personally speaking, it would be nice to see more of that indie rock experimental flair that was more prevalent in OJ Law’s previous works, which I think had set a kind of precedent for his brand of electronica. It doesn’t fall short, but it often leaves me wanting for more when the last few minutes of his tracks on All Filter actually does something weird, only to fade out into there’s any time to really savour it. It would be unfair to expect the kind of experimental leaps like Kero Kero Bonito would make, but electronica that pushes boundaries is always a huge plus for me.
Give this album a try, and you might find yourself returning back for a listen!
FAV TRACKS: Burning Out/Musang King/Black Cab
LEAST FAV TRACKS:
CORRECTION (19/9/2020) : We've mistakenly written Irena Taib as one of the vocals on 'Dear Luna'. It is actually Soraya Taib. Sorry