As I write this, I'm a day removed from Asheville's second annual Moogfest. A veritable small army of electro-tinged psych rockers crowded the festival; many of those bands are likely acts Raleigh's Oulipo might list as influences or, at the very least, peers. From the confetti-and-light-propelled freak-out of the Flaming Lips and the fuzz-lush Prince-isms of Toro Y Moi to the oddball dance party led by Dan Deacon, these sets were living proof of the thrills this popular and expansive niche can provide. Oulipo isn't as far along as these bands, but their music doesn't suffer by comparison.
On the rich and enveloping That Is What I Said (And I Dove Into the Water), the five-piece crams an LP's worth of ideas onto a five-song cassette. Theirs is a dense, rhythm-driven milieu, one that's rarely the same from one moment to the next. Still, Oulipo brandishes a strength of identity beyond their years, managing to stay cohesive even as they try on myriad sounds. Oulipo generally builds from skittering electronic rhythms only to refract them further with effects, magnifying their beats into a roar by song's end.
"Awful Light" amasses a horde of clicks and pops over its four and a half minutes, creating a forceful surge beneath the song's almost ambient veneer. As with all of these tunes, it feels like an impenetrable force, which can be as much a weakness as a strength. It's often hard to find a melody or to differentiate one rhythm from another, making it easy to get lost within the tumult.
"Ah-Oh-Ah-Oh" corrects the issue: Whirring along with bass, synthesizer and pillow-soft noise, the motion latches onto a wordless chorus that soars. Sure, the song's still crowded, but when Oulipo's hitting on all cylinders, it's an easy confinement to handle.