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EP Review: Ôntreɪ ‘Games’

ontrei updated press pic

Unless you’ve been keeping your ear close to the Sydney underground, you probably haven’t heard “Trei”, aka experimental rapper Ôntreɪ. A name which should ring a bell though is Sampa the Great, the Zambian-born buzz emcee. She is actually a good friend of Trei and confesses to taking freestyle lessons from him, which has to mean something coming from one of the most cutting edge Australian rappers at the moment.

Armed with this morale, Ôntreɪ is now releasing his debut, an experimental concept EP ‘Games’. The tape opens with Insensate; spooky Spanish instrumentation alongside a range of turbulent experimental elements courtesy of Sampa’s own beat-making extraordinaire Godriguez. Introduced to Ôntreɪ’s vocals for the first time, his deep and raspy vocals make him almost sound like an Australian Tyler the Creator.

Implementing his deranged rapping style (which he attributes to his acting and vocal training background), the emcee utilises a number of scary dynamic vocal shifts, psychotically morphing his voice as he does throughout the project. Over what is a wholly beatiful beat, it’s a powerful opening to the EP and one that sets the bar pretty high.

“Through the wacky beats and almost frightening verses, you can’t deny it’s a refreshing change from the norm, and it’s great to be hearing some experimental hip-hop coming out of Australia.”

Dragging us further into the rabbit hole is eɪ minor, another dark production which sets the scene for an even more deranged Ôntreɪ. With a sharpened flow and even more intriguing rhyme pattern, his tone is almost unsettling at times, but that’s the point. Ôntreɪ describes the project as an insight into life with mental illness, in particular “high functioning autism, ADHD and the general insanity of being a human.” This is extremely prevalent in this, and whether you can cope with his in-your-face style, it has us glued to our headphones.

Continuing onwards into chaos, Ô shi begins with smooth flutes and piano notes, an almost cinematic atmosphere. As the downtempo, gritty beat drops we are quickly greeted with Ôntreɪ at the hight of his insanity. Bodying an almost Joker-esque voice, he manages to maintain his lyricism and skill that he introduced in the opening tracks, yet demonstrates a new side, melodically rapping over an unpredictable piano loop in the closing half of the track – It’s weirdly wonderful.

The interlude-like title track Games plays next, with a range of messy instrumentation and layered rapping, presumably representing clouded voices in the characters head. This is short lived though, with Fly following, arguably the most stripped back song on the EP. In this, Ôntreɪ approaches the track much more like a story teller rather than a maniac, and despite the instrumental being quite laid-back, Trei maintains the energy with his voice alone.

Keeping this spirit going into the final track, a rough and tough horn based beat backed by snapping drums plays. The emcee’s berserk style is presented in a fresh way, maintaining the focus on lyricism, but twisting it with the new emphasis on singing and rapping throughout. It’s a welcoming change which portrays his emotion just as powerfully as his shrills and wails.

Overall this is one crazy concept EP which takes you on a one hell of a ride. Through the wacky beats and almost frightening verses, you can’t deny it’s a refreshing change from the norm, and it’s great to be hearing some experimental hip-hop coming out of Australia. Part of me doesn’t know how to react to its wildness, it’s not easy listening or catchy in anyway, but there’s no doubt Ôntreɪ has some serious potential and we can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeves for his further projects. Have a listen to the EP below, and let us know what you think!

Album Rating: 3