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OSKAR -The lowdown on Air Conditioning


Story: Jack Foley

OSKAR is a collaboration between former Collapsed Lung bassist and fine artist, Jonny Dawe, and former Strangelove keyboard player and soundtrack composer, Nick Powell.

It feels comfortable calling itself art rock, drawing on sources such as Krautrock, systems composers, Michael Nyman and Steve Reich, Sonic Youth, folk-psych and ambient musics.

As well as being a group, it is also a name and, in the boys' pursuit of music, OSKAR is also a character as well as a state of mind.

"For me," explains Nick, "OSKAR is from the boy in The Tin Drum who refuses to grow up.

"But Jonny hasn't read the book or seen the film - for him, I think it's because he likes The Six Million Dollar Man, in which Oscar was the controller.

"We just like the fact it's a name, which relates to its own zone or world. When Jonny and I make music together, we just know when it's right for OSKAR.

"It's not so much about me and Jonny then. But it's not like Jet either."

OSKAR was formed in 1999 in order to create an original soundtrack for performance art group, The Max Factory’s Target, which was performed throughout the UK and Europe.

Other OSKAR projects have included the composition and live performance of soundtracks for three Miu Miu catwalk shows in Milan, one of which, Air Conditioning was subsequently released on Leaf Records.

Continues Nick: "These things become apparent after the event, but to us, the album has some kind of 'weather' thing going on, so the title seems right. Air Conditioning seemed an interesting way to describe an ambient piece of music, too."

From this angle, the album conjures up the shade, mood, colour and dimensions of a hidden garden - something beautiful and expansive that teeters on the edge of a secret, or even eerieness.

Hence, tracks such as Peripherique represent the darker side of OSKAR, while the title track and P.S.I. the represent the dreamier, peaceful side.

Other OSKAR album collaborators are string players Sarah Willson (Belle & Sebastian) and Lucy Wilkins (Massive Attack), while OSKAR's live persona features Ruth Gottlieb (Calexico/Sparklehorse).

In 2003, OSKAR expanded to a four-piece and became the live band for Scottish experimental theatre company Suspect Culture, of which Nick is a co-founder, in the show One, Two… which toured extensively in the UK to great critical acclaim.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, this year, OSKAR has provided an introductory sound installation for the V&A’s sonic exhibition Shhh…, of which Jonny is a co-curator.

Having found success providing soundtracks to events, performances, short films and their own installations, OSKAR have now begun to play live to accompany the release of the album.

Concludes Nick: "We're going to try and do as many live shows as we can. But we like to do unusual live shows - places that are a bit more strategic."

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