Collaboration ends up as both vice and virtue on Mr. Oizo's sixth album, rendering one half of the album a lot of fun.
The new album by Mr. Oizo -- French musician and film director Quentin Dupieux -- is his most directly-focused since around his 2008 sophomore Lambs Anger (The connection between that album and his new All Wet is strengthened by the seeming re-appearance of the Flat Eric character on the artwork and in the "Hand in the Fire" music video.) Much of his work has some slightly-rougher textures and is a bit more... sonically sporadic ("playful") than what you'll find here, for better and for worse.
Often, Oizo will build a song around a synth melody (or drum beat) and then loop it, and while making minor changes to that, he'll make greater variations on any of the parts circling around said loop. The only track here to strongly evoke this older material is practical interlude "Oiseaux", a busy, varied ditty that never sticks to any of its threads. Otherwise, this common idea is substantially toned down on All Wet, where it seems the respectable decision was made to include less overt musical changes and cherry-pick some good ones.
Still, though, tracks like opener "OK Then", "Sea Horses (feat. Tetanos)", "Ruhe (feat. Boys Noize)", "All Wet (feat. Siriusmo)", and "Low Ink" are very static, enough so that after your second listen you've memorized the intricacies of each of them. This drops the full-album replay value down drastically. With help from the fact that Mr. Oizo's tracks are usually quite short, I imagine a simple fix for this album could be to mold some of the tracks together into fuller, 'listening time'-efficient patchworks -- the album-winding-down "Low Ink" could have been combined with a slower version of the 'useless' final track "Useless"; if "OK Then" is a chorus, then "Sea Horses" could be its verses; "Chairs" sounds like a direct add-on to the preceding "All Wet"; even "Goulag Drums" sounds like unused Drum Rack layers for a track like "Hand in the Fire (feat. Charli XCX)".
The album's shining moments do feature vocalists, yes, but their instrumental bases beneath them are better than the rest as well. Those fat booming kicks with snaps or snares on the two & four beats as on "Freezing Out (feat. Peaches)" definitely make you bounce, and when the kick & rimshot rhythm come sin it actually reminds me of a little slower version of my home state's Jersey club. "No Tony (feat. Phra)" is a beautiful cruising groove for any time of day. Its chopped happy guitar sample sticks out like a glistening, manicured thumb on the album, recalling M83's recent deliciously-cheesy '80s foray, Junk. "End of the World (feat. Skrillex)" is an excellent showcase of each artist's hyper energies (especially when Skrillex's is so easily noticable), and it could easily fit into a sweaty DJ set with "Freezing Out" and "Hand in the Fire".
After Porter Robinson recently shared in Mr. Oizo's use of a female-leaning robot voice, Mr. Oizo is now sharing Robinson's worlds-end imagery. The Charli XCX-featuring "Hand in the Fire" is of interesting note, since the single/video version is entirely different from the album version: the former is a party-starter that sounds like a Mr. Oizo hit with some Charli XCX help, and the latter is a peak-party banger where the roles seem reversed (judging by Charli's recent diamonds with help from SOPHIE and even Giorgio Moroder). As good as the album version also is, it does seem to reach territory Mr. Oizo's poked fun at before as a "beat for the douches"...
All in all, a lot of this album seems like it could be condensed to make better grooves, though the smattering of short-but-static grooves is actually quite suitable for a working environment. But the final song title reminds me of questions I've always had about Mr. Oizo: about how much mick does he take out of listeners, or of himself? How seriously are we supposed to take him, or does that fluctuate as it should? Just as his sound is often a cavalcade of pieces arranged next to each other, I can't feel any one particular way about Mr. Oizo's discography so far. On each work he's got a number of great tracks or moments, but it takes a substantial amount of wading through less full & exciting song skeletons. Intriguingly, here, the best and worst moments come about when he's working with others (which is the majority of the album), perhaps because Mr. Oizo's trying to match each collaborator's style. If this is the case, All Wet results in an as-yet unbalanced back-and-forth of not getting lost in his own sound or not adding enough of it in.