The six songs on Primitive Ways, the second EP from Raleigh quintet Oulipo, shouldn't last 27 minutes. The young act's hooks come in miniature, little falsetto-dipped curios snaking over complicated drums and elliptical textures and riffs. In fact, it's possible to listen to Primitive Ways a dozen times and emerge not with a memory of an exact song or the album itself, but instead with an impressionistic collage of various musical bits and vignettes—the wonderfully woozy harmonies of the first bridge in "Open Wide," the guitar that skitters and dissolves during "Hanging Hook," the sweet exhalation that kindly leads "Tectonic" toward the exit.
Oulipo's style sits at the center of a very large swath of high-value indie rock: They've inherited the playfulness of Akron/Family without the heartland leanings, and they've embraced the musical exuberance and intricacy of Yeasayer and The Dirty Projectors without (yet) spreading their reach to the corners of world music for inspiration. And on these six often-winning songs, they sometimes have the smarts and charms to fit among those contemporaries. Those aforementioned moments are but three of many pieces on Primitive Ways to suggest a band with the melodic sense and arrangement panache to write pop that's complex and compelling enough to get beyond the bounds of that word. But those moments come offset by spans of songs best left unrecorded or edited away, for they hide the jewels Oulipo is capable of producing.
So, in the end, perhaps the six songs of Primitive Ways should indeed stretch to 27 minutes, giving their makers a chance to air ideas and, in turn, filter back through them, to separate the numerous moments of magic found here from the uncertain morass that sometimes diminishes them. Primitive Ways sounds like the next step of an almost great band, drunk on possibilities but still learning how to present them; don't be surprised to find this EP's title apropos in a matter of months.