Mr. Oizo: The Church (Brainfeeder)
It’s hard to believe that Quentin Dupieux’s first album as Mr. Oizo came out over 15 years ago, and eventually got a release through Mute. Much of that high profile is owed to his single “Flat Beat” landing in a commercial for Levi’s as well as some other commercial ventures, but it had been years since I’d heard anything from him when I saw the announcement of this one on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder. Turns out he’s been relatively busy in the interim, mainly releasing through Ed Banger in France, but that FlyLo was interested in taking on the release of The Church is genuinely intriguing to me.
On the one hand, Dupieux is just as rambunctious and dancefloor compatible as ever, but his spirit is restless and there is a playful nature to The Church that makes it feel not so far off the path from his label’s boss’s sounds. However, more immediate comparisons that comes to mind are Siriusmo or Modeselektor, as all three acts aren’t afraid to flaunt a sense of humor while making some smart grooves and unlikely hooks all work in tandem. The bleep lines of “Destop” are undeniable, inspiring movement immediately, while the orchestra hits and FM grind of “Ham” is likely to set the ‘floor on fire at peak hours.
But it’s not all so obvious; Dupieux is just as keen to disjoint rhythms and set things off-kilter as he is to deliver anthems, and it’s that constant complement of styles and spirits that makes The Church so solid from start to finish. He’s able to take downright annoying sounds — consider the sproings of “Mass Doom” or the ballistic chip-tunish patterns of “Machyne” — and fuse them with hooks and humor in ways that work to the favor of dancefloors and headphones listening alike, all while staring convention down in the face as he often runs strange and goofy motifs into the ground. And yet he usually knows just when to pull back and bring it back to the hook in most cases, so that it never quite veers fully off the rails.
In contrast to a jerky anti-groove like “Dry Run,” there are tracks like “iSoap,” the best Daft Punk demo they never made. So there’s an odd contrast between a playful sense of humor and a vague feeling of malaise or danger that looms in the wings but never comes to the fore fully that gives The Church a sense of thrill, unpredictability, but most of all the safety of knowing that even if Dupieux throws challenging sounds your way, he’ll likely make you smile the whole time.