But had I been a young Todd Osborn, I imagine I would have had no such problems: this is an adult who not only collects Lego and owns a hovercraft, but also constructs music put together using computers (not just software) he builds himself. Spectral’s press sheet explains his music as “testimony to a life walking the walk” (as opposed to someone like me, who’s dedicated to the blah blah). All of what Osborne does appears to be about acting out all these childhood fantasies. Remember when you’d always say to your friends, “Wouldn’t it be cool to build a half pipe?” Well, Todd would have been the kid who actually did. You could say then that this collection of tracks is but one of a number hobbies that Todd pursues to the nth degree, a level of intensity he appears to share with fellow Spectral DJ Ryan “Marathon Man/Spreadsheet Set Plan” Elliott.
But this is a collection: those of you expecting an “album” of unheard originals will be disappointed, as I was initially. Several of the best tracks here, such as ‘Afrika’, ‘Ruling’, ‘Outta Sight’ and ‘Downtown’ have all appeared on Osborne’s previous EPs for Spectral. In this way, Osborne the album shares a similar structure to the Soylent Green Forza del Destino collection released on Playhouse in 2006. There’s also a stylistic link between many of Osborne’s tracks and some of the Playhouse catalogue circa 2004, from Benny Blanko’s deep, relaxed, melodic house tunes to the slightly poppier, vocal led offerings by Losoul, Roman Flügel and Fabrice Lig. There’s also a stylistic nod to Luke Vibert’s ‘acid lite’ works, translated into acknowledgement when Vibert was brought in for a well-regarded remix of ‘Outta Sight’.
In fact, there’s nothing about this album that means it couldn’t have been released in 2004. There’s also a lot that’s referential (and reverential) towards ‘96 and ‘89, for that matter. Is there anything original going on here? Is it just a cool collection of classic house made out of Lego? Prosumer and Murat Tepeli’s Serenity from earlier this year demonstrated that there’s nothing wrong with verging on retro, provided you articulate the homage with enough élan and ground the gesture in sincerity. And for what it’s worth, the best tracks on Osborne tick these boxes, from start to finish everything is very well put together.
All this amounts to a solid, well-made collection, with some nice new stuff thrown in; Osborne is the curious and skilful construction of a dedicated master of DIY. But again, to draw the comparison with Serenity, its strength is also its limitation: whilst there’s much to like here and a few tunes to really cherish, this is the work of a master builder working from a well-establish blueprint. But does it matter? It seems that Osborne isn’t concerned with re-inventing the wheel so much as making sure it spins true. Had he been my dad and built my Fox (from the box), I’m sure it would have been just as sturdy to play with, and as much fun to use. Maybe that’s good enough.