By Colin Gallant
There are plenty of SEO-oriented ways of discussing electronic enfant terrible Powell’s music, many of which were engineered by Oscar Powell himself. Having published personal email correspondence everywhere from Twitter to YouTube online, swerving into IRL with oppressive billboards, and finally back to email with a P2P album announcement directly to a fan, Powell’s craftily-won breakthrough on XL suspiciously scans as a case of wagging the dog.
Just before listening to Sport for the first time, this reviewer was worried that Powell had missed his calling as a marketing executive and wrongly stumbled upon music. Boy, was he wrong.
Sport is a lo-fi feeling work made up of hiss, fraudulent-sounding drums, perverted digitizations of rock, fraught basslines and weird electro-clash parodies. That shouldn’t seem to make much sense on the surface, but Sport is also a case of being happily proved wrong. It’s a debut album that has enough imaginable narrative cohesion between online/offline life, business/art mechanics, and cool/corny power roles to halt the hurried listener’s quickness to assess, and convinces one to ease up and listen for a while. Its highest value is that it doesn’t ask to be liked but instead can’t be looked away from.
There are enough sonic plot points found along the noise, groove, rawkishness and club-informed phases to solidify its haphazard construction as a deconstructive device. Jarring the listener between outright abrasion, slick delight and crispy uncool, Powell shows he’s not just agitating us out of sadism. Instead, the tonal disagreement and cast of desperate, screeching vocal characters sampled along the way remind us of the turbulent, intrusive ways that we tune out the parts of life that we don’t want to see. Hints and nods towards social issues, raw ugliness, actual dance-worthy parts and crass rehashings somehow make sense together and offer an alternative to doing just one thing particularly well. Powell’s ability to scream into the void and actually draw attention is ostentatious and impossible not to think about.Powell, Sport