In discussion with Shanti Celeste about “Set It Out” by Omar-S (2003).
So what was the first time you heard this track?
I wish I could say it was in a club where I had a life changing experience bla bla bla, but it was actually a much more ordinary scenario. I was buying some birthday records on Juno just after it was repressed in 2009. I didn’t know much about Omar-S at that point, had heard the name once or twice, but that was about it. So the answer to that question is – the first time I heard this song was on the mighty Juno player.
What drew you to it? The simplicity of the groove? The addictive synth line? How it erupts into a heartfelt song? Or something else? Or all of it?
All of it! The vocal and the beautiful rolling pad in particular though, then the nice toms and the clap, too! I just think it’s a beautiful track, it can make you feel so happy and grateful. I love singing so I just start belting out along with it as soon as I hear it or even when I play it in a club. It is just so simple but so powerful.
For me this is foremost a prime example of a very fine Vocal House record. Lyrics, singing and sound work perfectly with each other. It seems nothing is missing, and there is nothing to improve. But is it really as simple as it sounds?
Yes and no, there isn’t that many elements which I guess is what makes it simple, but it is cleverly constructed. I always think that spreading a synth line across four bars creates more interest because it gives room for all the other elements to play without sounding too loopy and repetitive, even if it is that way. Also let’s not forget what a great vocal can do to a track, in some cases it can completely transform it.
I think his track „Who Wrote The Rules of Love“ with Colonel Abrams also comes close to what Omar-S achieved with „Set It Out“. Are you a fan of his in general? Are there other tracks you like nearly as much?
I agree, that’s also really good and again a perfect example of a good Vocal House track, if I’m putting it down to just a feeling though, I prefer „Set It Out“ but they are so close! These are probably my two favourites. I do like a lot of his others as well, he has done soooo much! One of my other favourites is him and Kai Alcé’s „Not Phazed“.
I like that Omar-S is absolutely not very fussy about either producing or marketing what he produces. He is not very concerned about other opinions on what he does either. Is this the way out of modern PR obligations, just delivering the tunes?
I think part of it is a way of delivering tunes! Imagine if he did the whole PR thing every time he released a record, especially at the start when he was releasing lots, it would be a PR overload! And now people trust him and will probably buy his records anyway.
There is whole lot of discourse about Detroit in club culture. But does the origin of Omar-S really matter with „Set It Out“?
To be honest, I’m not sure. To me it just sounds like Omar-S!
UK also has a healthy tradition with Garage House, even if it evolved into something different. But to my ears the production of this track is not too dissimilar to UK club styles, or am I wrong?
I actually think there are other more garage-y tracks from Omar-S that sound more similar to UK styles. „Set It Out“ is quite straight and I always think of UK Garage House as a lot more swong. But I guess that“s the beauty of music, eh? Everyone hears it in they’re own way.
What is important if you infuse a dance track with vocals?
Tricky, I will always notice a good vocal track if I like the vocal and the way that it’s been placed on the track. It’s very important that it’s effortless and soulful but not trying to be too gimmicky and „classic house vocal’. Also sometimes it helps if they use the whole accapella, like in „Set It Out“, or if it’s a vocalist that they arrange with more of a song structure. I like the way it sounds when it’s chopped as well but it has to be done right. Basically, it has to to work great and not just for the sake of it.
I must admit that I much prefer this kind of vocals in a dance track to the majority of tracks of recent years that include a singing style usually more associated with indie records. But I would not go as far as to maintain you cannot create a good club song without a Soul aspect. But what does a good club song actually require?
For me it requires a physical and an emotional aspect. So a really good groove that you just can’t help but dance to and a melodic aspect of some kind. I’m not saying it has to be super melodic with noodly bits everywhere, although that’s the route I tend to take because I just can’t help myself. But something to go along with the groove that’s making you dance your ass off.
Is there a way that „Set It Out“ is reflected in your own productions?
Maybe yes, it’s probably influenced me in more ways than I know considering that I have listened to it so many times over the years!
The defunct Face magazine used to have these little messages at the bottom of their last page. I always have this one particular issue in the back of my mind where it read „Vocals matter“. But do they still?
They do to me!