The best thing about solo DJ albums is that gives us, the listeners, fans and club rats, our best opportunity to really get inside the head of the mysterious character forcing our bodies to move. These DJs are usually only spotted in the wild, spinning behind the artist they produce for or elevated above the dance floor to the point that we only see a focused outline of a head nodding in rhythm. It’s hard to carve out the personality of the person from these encounters. So, when asked why we like a particular DJ, it’s difficult to say anything but, “Because their beats for (artist name) were sick.”
On the debut album from Christopher Mercer, a.k.a. Rusko, the DJ gives us many more reasons than that. O.M.G.!’s first track, “Woo Boost,” is standard heavy-bass-laden dubstep, but from there he takes us through a 14-track span that moves from disco to house, from dance-pop to techno. “Hold On,” featuring the Dirty Projector’s Amber Coffman, is the album’s runaway single, with its speedy beat and soaring vocals. While a far cry from Rusko’s work with Santigold and M.I.A., the song shows the DJ’s ability to craft radio-friendly pop, shirking dubstep and favoring a quick and relentless drum ‘n’ bass tempo.
This sonic shift is the album’s biggest strength and tallest hurdle. Unlike most DJ albums, this is a collection of very distinct songs that doesn’t work well from front to back; tempos change, new sounds come and go mid-song, and beats fall in different places. O.M.G.! requires multiple spins to appreciate Rusko’s risky experimentalism, which finds us listeners caught between the familiar (the Basement Jaxx sounding “Feels So Real”) and the unknown (the choppy futuristic “Oy,” featuring Crookers). It’s a strong solo debut from a producer continuing to bring his own interpretation to dubstep, and from the look of O.M.G.!, he’s not stopping there. Rusko’s intentions are now clear.