Thursday, August 9, 2012

Album Review: "Primitive Ways" by Oulipo

Oulipo released Primitive Ways on Aug. 4, 2012
and it's available for purchase on their Bandcamp
It's an absolute joy to watch a band find their footing, listening to them evolve throughout their releases until they craft together the perfect blend of outside influence and personal inspiration, much like one can find with Oulipo on Primitive Ways.  Primitive Ways is the band's latest 6-song EP, and it's filled with avant-garde experimental pop gems from beginning to end.

Taking obvious inspiration from contemporary acts like Animal Collective and The Dirty Projectors, Oulipo has crafted brilliant pop songs that expand to the reaches of the genre's horizon, creating a dense and lush soundscape for the listener to lose themselves in.  There are moments in Primitive Ways in which you can hear these influences bleeding through with a polyrhythmic breakdown or a brilliantly placed trumpet line that rips through the reverb and delayed guitars, that's when you start to realize that Oulipo is an act that's snowballing into a sound of their very own.

Tracks like "Hanging Hook" display this perfectly.  The band samples a fellow local electronic act with Motor Skills' "Little Tiff" and crafts it into a song of their own.  While the original featured Mike Dillon  letting out a smooth R&B esque croon over this catchy riff, Oulipo pulls out a much quicker paced banger with some added guitar and drum lines with some sweet falsettos to top it off.  The EP opens with "Build It Up", a track that greets us with the lines "Build me up, build me up with your hands".  Oulipo does just that, as it opens with thickly reverberated vocals and an off-kilt drum beat until the track lives up to it's namesake. The song builds into something of a different breed with a dense and dark electronic blend that feels a bit like "King Of Limbs" until the new melodic idea butts its head into the mix and the band draws back from the instrumentation in lieu of their new refrain, "Are you proud, are you proud of your primitive ways?"  "Build It Up" is the perfect example of the subtlety that Oulipo is capable of, their songs can undergo multiple transformations within their brief 3-5 minute lengths.

As "Build It Up" begins to fade the EP's lead-in single, "Tectonic" makes it's way in.  A beefy synth line is the foundation of this intro, but it quickly blossoms into an airy and falsetto filled track that floats the listener right along with well placed trumpet lines and percussive experimentation that grabs you by the hand and takes you into the minds that make up Oulipo.  On "Open Wide", Ryan Trauley sings "And what's inside my head fills me with this doubt/I don't trust the things that come out of my mouth", and that perfectly encapsulates some of the lyrical prowess that can be found on Primitive Ways.  There's a bit of personality within all of these songs that digs deeper than an interesting melody and some kick-ass instrumentation, it's clear that they're pouring themselves into these songs.  While there are some moments that feel like the band is running with ideas a bit past their prime, the experimentation is what keeps Oulipo fresh.  The experimentation allows for the band to find ideas that separate them from those acts that they could so easily be compared to.  While Primitive Ways is a release that's nothing short of fantastic, it's clear that Oulipo still has plenty of exploring to do before they cement themselves into a sound that's truly their own.

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