Adam Oko makes music that isn’t easy to define. His scope ranges from lo-fi, ambient soundscapes to warped, synth-driven struts that reference the utopian sounds of 80s Japanese electronic music. Underpinning it all is an inquisitiveness that lays his process bare; he’s uncovering things as he goes. Hailing from Canterbury and currently based in London, Oko also makes music with Pride of Gombe, a collective project featuring Lukid, BNJMN, Samoyed, Mr Beatnick, Kelpe and Luke Owen.
In Oko’s own words, “ruthless experimentation and absolute objection to compromise” unify the diverse artists he cites as his biggest influences; namely Robert Wyatt, Brian Eno, Haruomi Hosono and This Heat. These values permeate Oko’s approach to making music, which involves various field recordings, samples and sounds from analog sources, and frippertronic loops: a technique that creates real-time delay between repeating tape loops. As evident on his debut solo EP Diet of Germs, Oko’s music has a relationship to artists like Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro, and he seems to share their approach of raking through the past and looking forwards at the same time. “I find that a retro vision of the future is always more tasteful than a contemporary one,” he says.
Oko makes it clear that his approach is more instinctive than planned out however. When I ask him about the interplay he creates between utopian sounds and the dark, industrial elements of his work, he is quick to dismiss any conceptual motives. “That contrast is more about what sounds right to my ears than intentional. Whilst I love that grit and rawness, I’m also a hopeless sucker for a knee-weakening melody.”
His music is full of articulate ideas however, and some of the tracks feel like meditations on the creative process itself. Suketo begins as a restrained, ambient soundscape that feels like it’s striving or hinting at something, until at the exact midpoint of the track a sampled voice floats in: “people are full of poetry you know… everything they say; maybe the way they say it has this magic and spark in it. People are always saying things that inspire me… people are just full of wonderful things.” The voice belongs to a 19 year old Kate Bush but divorced from its original context, it has the feeling of an epiphany.
We’ve got the first listen of Adam Oko’s debut solo EP Diet of Germs. Listen in the player above
Oneohtrix Point Never/ James Ferraro