Faulty rave, dysfunctional techno; what do you call Powell? Regardless of obligatory genre titles, Sport sounds like dance music dragged through the slaughterhouse. A sound propelled by an impotent swagger, both a form of patchwork DIY and ultra HI-FI assault.
With the likes of Dean Blunt – and now Powell – pranksterism seems rife in contemporary music. After asking Steve Albini permission for a Big Black sample, Oscar Powell used the ageing musicians screed against dance culture – both as the video and billboard for his track Insomniac. If your looking for an embodiment of this prankster aesthetic, then FiT_7‘s leakage of uninterrupted noise is a fitting place to start, swiftly continued with the next tracks title…Fuck You, Oscar. This pranksterism stretches beyond the strictly musical. His merch page stocking a whole host of unconventional products – the £10,000 ‘cocaine white’ horse being the most memorable item listed.
Running through Simon Reynolds Energy Flash is the – at times – combative relationship between functional and experimental electronic music. Powell appears to have concocted a form of semi-functional dance, scraps of free form noise spill like unwelcome ooze into the fabric of these lurching beats. The stuttering rhythms throughout the album don’t just threaten to derail, they regularly succumb to the random logic of disorder.
Frankie’s an early highlight; incorporating elements of post-punk, electro-clash and cock rock absurdity. However, the flashes of cock rock guitar throughout the album avoid coming across as macho posturing. Within this setting they seem limp, without power, they’re aggression stunted. The albums other single Jonny [feat. Jonny] is perhaps the most concise melding of dance with his more rockist tendencies, fusing looped rockabilly guitar with stabbing electronic feedback.
The polarised responses to Sport can somewhat be expected. An album which pays no heed to the conventions or expectations of any genre it draws upon, carrying along with it a deconstructionist irreverence to its sources. The experience is obtuse, confrontational, obnoxious; almost purposefully designed to rupture carefully mixed sets that are hoping for a meditative or hypnotic experience. The excellent Do You Rotate? [feat. Dale Cornish] tries to forcibly drag it’s beat from militantly disagreeable ideas, each sound seemingly having contempt for the other.
You wouldn’t necessarily expect an album with such a contrarian sensibility to appear on a label as large as XL. This can either be perceived as an anomaly, or a promising sign that the stranglehold of musical conservatism may be diminishing. After a decade of ridiculing the hegemony of landfill indie (and rightfully so) dance music must also resist these same impulses. Powell rightfully recognises the dance floor as a platform for new ideas, Sport being the clearest distillation of his own.
Words by Eden Tizard