As a producer and DJ, Jim Coles has been a significant and pioneering presence in various dance music circles for the past decade. Following a formative decade in the global hip-hop underground, Coles took on the mantle of Om Unit in the late 2000s, and since then the English producer has sought to challenge himself and his audience by going beyond the confines of genres and styles he has so far explored. In the process he has found success by striving for more feeling, for a more human and daring electronic music. Key to his approach is a desire to never settle for the destination and instead focus on what can be learned from the journey.
What drives Coles is a desire to keep challenging himself, and in turn his audience. During his time as Om Unit, this has led him to distill various influences — hip-hop, dubstep, ambient, jungle, footwork — into a fluid take on sound system culture that sidesteps the pitfalls of genres and pastiche and creates new potentials for exploration and inspiration, with many following in his footsteps. It’s how, in the early 2010s (under the recently resurrected ’Philip D Kick’ alias) he came to pioneer the stylistic and rhythmic links between jungle and footwork via a series of acclaimed edits that brought him to the attention of the drum & bass scene. This personal approach has earned Coles praise as a refreshing voice in dance music from both peers and the media.
On record, Coles’ explorations into the deeper end of the electronic music spectrum have come via releases for Civil Music, including a critically acclaimed debut album, 2013’s Threads, legendary drum & bass outfit Metalheadz, where he was given access to Goldie’s personal sample archive as the inspiration for 2014’s Inversion album, his own Cosmic Bridge imprint where in 2017 he released his daring third studio album Self (a true follow-up to his 2013 debut Threads), Planet Mu, for a collaboration with Machinedrum as Dream Continuum, All City Records, remixing Grammy-winning producer Om’Mas Keith, Plastician’s Terrorhythm, and dBridge’s Exit Records – where firstly he collaborated with Sam Binga (leading to their BUNIT series of white label releases) and later released as part of Richie Brains, a guerilla D&B collective that also includes Alix Perez, Chimpo, Fixate, Fracture, Sam Binga and Stray. The same exploratory approach has made him an in-demand remixer (DJ Magazine shortlisted him for Best Producer and Best Remix at the close of 2016) and BBC Radio 1, Boiler Room, Resident Advisor, FACT, XLR8R, and Rinse FM have called on him to provide mixes and showcase his sound.
In 2011, Coles set up a label, Cosmic Bridge Records, through which he has exercised an A&R sensibility that has created an exciting independent home for likeminded artists. The label’s releases, pressed onto limited edition vinyl runs, sell out within days of their street date. Through Cosmic Bridge, Coles has championed veterans such as Kromestar, J:Kenzo, TMSV, DJ Madd and Boxcutter alongside new voices from Europe and America, including Moresounds, Danny Scrilla, Crypticz, Proc Fiscal and Graphs. The label’s breadth is best seen in the celebrated, and award-nominated, Cosmology compilation series Coles began overseeing in 2014. Moving towards it’s 30th release, and with an all important Om unit album in the catalogue Cosmic Bridge continues to represent a dual path of inspiration: that which Coles found in others’ music, and that which others have found in his.
Coles is also a sought after DJ, with over 500 appearances in clubs and festivals in more than 30 countries he has made the equivalent of approaching twenty five trips round the globe and counting. And in line with his desire to imagine new potentials for dance music has appeared on varied bills from the Montreux Jazz Festival to Bass Coast, Outlook to Mysteryland. After two decades in London, Coles relocated to Bristol in 2015. From his new studio on the English west coast he has continued his search through production work (the Torchlight EP series on Cosmic Bridge including collaborations with DJ Krust, Mark Force & Digital) and aesthetic exercises (the Gates mix series).
Jim Coles has never been an obvious producer but zoom out on the years of exploration in the potentials of hip-hop beats, the space of slow-motion house music, the darkest corners of drum & bass & the hardcore continuum, or the frenzy of footwork patterns and by coming out the other side with personal takes fashioned from experience, experimentation, and excitement, that we can see, by consistently been putting Om Unit forward as a connector — between musical ideas, studio techniques, and potential emotional outcomes and by inviting listeners to hear and feel the experiences and memories that make up who we are – Coles has truly made an indelible mark on electronic music.