On is the debut album from Val-Inc, aka Val Jeanty, a Haitian-born artist who currently resides in New York city. A turntablist and writer, she combines spoken word passages and dark soundscapes in a way that calls to mind fellow artist DJ Spooky. Part illbient and part slam poetry, it treads somewhat serious turf that's successful at times and frustrating at others.
The biggest problem with the release is that it jumps all over the place and seems like it doesn't really know which direction in wants to go in, despite running just under a half hour in length. "Open" kicks things off with little more than some delayed words and a hiss of feedback, but "Faces" opens things up with looped vocals, spoken-word nuggets, saxophone bleats, and deep groans of bass and off-kilter beats. "Sinz" follows, and does sort of the same thing with slightly different sound sources. A couple layers of spoken word with somewhat inflammatory words wind around one another as string drones swirl and ominous drums rumble in the background. The end result is something that sounds like a bad carbon copy of Laurie Anderson, as there's no real emotional highpoint in the song. Instead, it largely limps along at roughly the same dynamic for almost six minutes.
And really, that's the problem with the album as a whole, although both "@" and "Musik" stand out a fair amount by bringing some louder rhythmic elements into the mix along with some swirling electronics while making the spoken word bits fall into the background a bit. That's not to say that the spoken word bits are bad on the album, but as with anything of this sort, your results will vary based on your enjoyment of such. Personally, I found them provocative in places, while having heard stuff that's quite similar on other musical releases (like DJ/Rupture and the aforementioned DJ Spooky). In general, it really takes something new and exciting to thrill me when it comes to turntablism these days, and unfortunately On isn't doing that.