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
"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
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."