Angil + Hiddntracks
(11.2008, Chemikal Underground)
Verdict = A rare concept album that is as enjoyable as it is intelligent
You simply can’t talk about Oulipo Saliva without talking about the concept behind the album, so let me get that out of the way up front. ‘Oulipo’ is a French term that, according to Wikipedia, roughly translates to “workshop of potential literature.” The word was used by a group of writers and mathematicians who conducted constrained writing experiments in an effort to expand their understanding of and create new literary forms. In adopting this general aesthetic, Angil and instrumental group Hiddentracks have created an album entirely devoid of the letter E (rendering Hiddentracks, ‘Hiddntracks’). That means in addition to losing all lyrics containing the letter E there are no E chords. The weight of choosing the letter E is pretty hefty in and of itself since E turns out to be the most used letter in the English language, finding itself in over 12% of all English words. I was actually planning on writing this entire review E-less, but quickly abandoned the prospect after I could only get as far as a couple of sentences (note: I’ve already used 86 E’s in this review thus far). The wonderful part about Oulipo Saliva is that it isn’t just a great concept, it is a genuinely awesome album. I’ve seen quite a few reviews that have variously compared Angil’s vocals to Robert Wyatt and Why? leader Yoni Wolf. I think there is a bit of merit to either comparison, but I’m sure you can assume by the relative disparity between the two options that Angil voice inhabits its own unique poetic ground. Hiddntracks probably doesn’t assist in dispelling the previous comparisons either by providing a sort of avant-jazz/hip hop back drop that accentuates Angil’s delivery perfectly. If there is anything that I would stress with Oulipo Saliva it is repeat listens. My first impressions of the album were felt somewhat awkward - mostly because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into - but each repeat listen has brought a greater appreciation and greater satisfaction to the point that I have become certifiably obsessive. Oulipo Saliva has definitely emerged as one the most creatively satisfying albums I have heard in a long time.