Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Overall Album Impressions
OK James ’s “Age of Wonder” is a lushly complex, dance-floor friendly exploration of a plethora of unique synthesized and electronic sounds. OK James has made accessible, but fascinating EDM using a varied synth palette.
I am continually fascinated by the sheer richness and variety of all of the synthesized sounds at play on “Age of Wonder.” OK James explores a detailed, deep series of synthscapes that run through bright, sharp, wobbling and flickering tones. The music has depth, shape and texture created by all of those intriguing synths.
There’s no doubt in my mind that “Age of Wonder” is danceable. There’s a great deal of hip-swaying groove and energetic drum and bass throb to get people up and moving. I feel that the sheer musical variety sets this album apart from other EDM albums in which the sonic elements can become overly repetitive.
I also enjoy the imagery that is woven on the album. OK James creates vivid mental images that explore interesting moods and atmospheres from the joyous to the tense with stops for delicate caressing and positive uplift on the way.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“The Age of Wonder” starts off as angular, hard-hitting drums and bass form a snaky rhythm. An elevated, steady sound pulses and the bouncing bass is joined by flowing, gliding medium-high synth. The drums and bass form a sharp-edged pattern as an ethereal synth swirl is cut slipping, flowing notes that extend out along with record scratches.
Warm synth carries a caressing melodic pattern before the track bursts into rapidly interweaving, dense notes. Now a harsh, repeating, nervous sound moves over the bass oscillation. I am drawn to the flute-like instrument that carries a delicately touching melody. The music drifts over bass depths as the relentless drum throb pushes the music forward. Elevated, gleaming synth floats out before the rough-edged bass and a pulsing drum moves into open space and fades.
An airy background flow joins a steadily pulsing drumbeat that guides the music to open "You Can’t Stop It” along with a burst of higher sound. A whirling noise ramps up and waves of undulating, medium-high synth keep flowing on. High, metallic sound flashes and the undulating synth forms a steady pattern over the throbbing bass and weighty drums.
A digital-sounding, medium-high synth repeats in an intriguing robotic dance. Misty sounds float up around the relentless drum and bass pulse. The track moves into a gliding segment in which the beat fades and gruff synth moves along with “you can’t stop it” repeated like a mantra.
The slamming drums and bass underpin wriggling sounds that move along with the distorted, synth. The lead synth repeats the choppy, wandering melodic pattern. The track ends on endless drum throb, a distant and twisted voice and then silence.
“My Love” commences with a deep, solid kick drum and full sounds that rebound in and through the track. The resonant, broad bass throb moves unevenly before the scudding drum and bass forms a propulsive beat. Gravelly, rapid sounds burst in and fade with a sharp feeling as an unstoppable, medium-high synth repeats over the beat.
The track moves to a segment in which wide-open synth moves in waves along with a mellifluous arpeggiation over the uneven bass below it. After a drum flourish, a leaping pattern of medium-high, shifting synth creates a wavy texture. A vocal sample adds pleasingly impassioned energy as the unrelenting drum and bass throb guides the music.
An easily slipping segment comes in as orchestral strings and a twangy, low guitar flow and the soulful vocal sample moves in. Drums and bass charge as a medium-low synth pulse flickers over and over, the sample choppy and short as the track ends on broken strings.
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A repeating, hollow, medium-low tone is joined by rough-edged, popping sounds to kick off "What the Hell?!” The hollow tone slowly rises to add tension while punchy, razor-edged synth leaps into the music along with squeaking sounds. Ghostly, open synth rises and falls in an even pattern over the aggressive forward motion underpinning it.
The sharp lead synth has a dynamic energy as it leaps in angular motion over the bursting drums. Sparkling synth ripples out into the music over the beat’s throb as distorted sounds drift.
Now nervously spinning arpeggios tumble over the solid drum drive while wide sounds flow. Bell-like percussion with a metallic, hollow feeling shifts along with flanging synth. A floating, reverent background is supported by the sharp-edged bass pulse. I am drawn to the cosmic flow as it glides along.
Distorted vocals shift and the pulsating, energetic drums and bass surge. A full-tone guitar carries a broken pattern with an uplifting melodic shape. The drums and bass create a hip swaying motion before dancing, swirling synth slices in. The beat is unstoppable and a fat sound adds width.
“The Love We Share" begins with slowly undulating bass that has an elastic quality as the drumbeat shapes the music. The bass is dense and heavy as thick synth adds extra weight. Wide-sounding piano carries a tenderly shadowed melodic pattern while a raised, shifting synth cuts in.
Massive, deep synth blocks support a minor key melodic pattern that slowly rises and falls. A circular, hollow synth flickers in a faster arpeggiating pattern as gigantic weight moves below. Metallic, echoing synth trembles over a steady lower oscillation and shimmering notes move quickly. The drum and bass heartbeat is established as surging, clamouring synth rapidly spills through the music.
High, tense synth repeats in an uneven flow over the beat’s propulsion to form a pleasing hypnotic pulse, while a wriggling pattern of metallic synth adds to the track’s urgency. A line of twanging notes twists as swirling synth trickles in rapidly varying lines over the throbbing beat. Vaguely melancholy synth flickers along with a low droning sound on which the music fades.
Digital-sounding, tense synth is joined by a reverberating, resonant drum sound and steadily oscillating bass to start “Shake Ur Groove Circuit.” A metallic, mellow synth dances in and fades as a tightly wound, medium high sound moves through the music.
Leaping, flaring synth is joined by rising, organ-like chords that create an addictive groove along with the drums and bass. Rubbery synth expands and writhes in an elastic line as a sharp, cutting noise buzzes in to form an undulating pulse.
Funky guitar adds its energetic voice over squishy, bending synth to move the music on. The drums and bass create a sense of forward motion as the wobbling synth pattern is balanced by the funky guitar as the drums and bass interweave with it to form a strong groove.
“Adios Verano” commences with a distorted vocal sound that shimmies into the music in an uneven pattern. After a drum fill, massive bass moves in a vibrating line along with a steady drumbeat. Drifting, chiming strings ring out over the deep power and movement of the drums and bass to form an enjoyable contrast.
The chimes float above whorls of flowing sound that warmly caress the ears. A hollow drum mingles with the rough-edged bass and a worried, steady sonic flow along with a open-voiced synth that wobbles into the track. A writhing, high sound pops and sputters as a smooth, pattering sound ticks through and the chiming strings ring out.
A trembling, constant bass flow moves under airier, more delicate sounds that smoothly glide to open “Give Me Back the Time” A softly tapping sound moves with medium-high synth that swells in short bursts as the propulsive beat guides the music. Flashing, twirling sounds dance along with extended synth washes.
A rising synth climbs in repeating lines as quick bursts of lower, bright synth flash. Now a nasal, rich synth carries a lightly touching melodic pattern full of pleasing gentleness as sweep of wind breathes through the music. A tide of intertwining, slightly broken and uncertain synth bubbles through over a hissing, slightly uneven sound that vibrates out into silence.
"Just Love” begins as heavy, throbbing drums and bass are joined with a low, growly synth repeating a slightly broken sonic pulse. High, cascading synth dances over darker, shifting bass and full, medium-high synth repeats a volleying pattern. Wide, gossamer synth flows with a mournful tone over a reverberating and flickering sound interwoven in between.
Bass rises and falls in tech-y sounding patterns over the steady drums as quick arpeggios arc. I am enamoured of the way in which squiggly synth spins out over a steady undulation of delicate sound. The drums and bass guide the music as glowing synth flares into life and fades. Fragile sonic clouds are accompanied by metallic sounds that cut in before the music fades.
Rapidly whirling arpeggios move along with a deeply vibrating guitar that adds a lush resonance as “Untitled” comes into being. A steady kick drum throb and a tautly repeating sound move together as the guitar strums and deep bass supports the higher sounds as the drumbeat pushes on.
The arpeggios are broad now and as they unfurl, they add texture to the music. There’s a rushing feel to the rapid bursts of medium synth sound, while the guitar has a wonderfully dreamy quality as it and forms a lapping wave.
The arpeggio shimmers with a rough edge while a round, gentle synth sings a soothing melody. Below it all, the drums and bass are an urgent heartbeat as the music breaks to the whirling arpeggio and a single bell-like note which fades.
"Age of Wonder" is an enjoyable listening experience that combines EDM danceabiltiy with a more interesting, deep and nuanced feeling than music produced with less attention to detail and respect for musicality.
© 2022 Karl Magi