Album Reviews

Oskar – LP:2

(Incarnation) UK release date: 22 June 2009

There is something very refreshing about the approach of a band such as Oskar, but it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is.

An educated guess would be something to do with the lack of rules applied throughout, the music given room to plot its own experimental path whilst keeping a sense of structure and meaning. Another key element is found in the backgrounds of the three band members, hooking up on their deserted allotment of the cover photo with past form as part of Strangelove (Nick Powell), Collapsed Lung (Jonny Dawe), Belle And Sebastian and Tindersticks (Sarah Willison).

Elements of all – and more – crop up as the record progresses. Yet don’t take that as a sign that LP:2 is directionless and crammed with too much music. It isn’t – for all its intricate layers, Paper Cuts actually comes across as a rather languid pop song that the likes of Fujiya & Miyagi would be more than happy to own.

The group’s secret weapon is their occasional guest, Willison. Her cello lends unexpected weight to tracks like Hi-Beam Blue, with its layered melodies, the broadly expansive tunes of Eden or, in a lighter context, the flighty pizzicato of Reichenbach Falls. Meanwhile vocal guest Sharon Smith lends some weight to the spoken word art rock of Some Song, which takes some getting used to but makes a powerful impact.

Clearly the band have a keen ear for colour and orchestration, and Printer Tzara, with its occasional nod to Michael Nyman, builds on that perceptive musical thinking. This also shows how they manage to walk a fine line between tension and relaxation throughout the album, often in their willingness to explore modal melodies and more obscure harmonies. The ear is continually indulged, and occasionally tested – but frequently rewarded.

Look closer at the cover photo and you’ll see all is not quite what it appears with Oskar. Fake wires stream from the spade, and the greyness of the surrounding matter gets a lift from the superimposed birds. The music is similar – a little dark on first listen, but lifting the colour frequently and revealing more on closer inspection. The end result is an intriguing listen and a whole host of points from which to approach this album – which turns out to be far more than the sum of its parts.

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Oskar – LP:2