Picking apart Oyster will reveal some characteristic mind-altering moments; the problem is that there aren't enough to invoke a transformative listening experience. "Gambetti," a distinctly Detroit-flavored cut, cruises at a smooth sub-130 BPM without much textural impact or propulsive force. Then, during the closing two minutes, flakes of percussion break off and orbit around the core cluster of snares, chords and kicks, and it's far and away the best part. Significantly more moody is the 12-plus-minute title track. It boasts a brief but potent midsection of analog fizz and deep, resonant bass with a digi-dub feel, and the sounds collapse like earthen roots and rubber-coated wires all coiled together. The closing "Cormorant" comes swathed in dense, staticky sheets of atmosphere that recall Gengras's underrated drone-rock project Robedoor. But these are just glimpses and flashes in tracks that, altogether, don't possess much immersive wonder. They do what they do competently yet predictably.
In a way it's not surprising Oyster doesn't have more of Gengras's freak flair, as Personable has become more and more conventionally techno over time. On 2012's Alternate/Other and Spontaneous Generation, all manner of brash cross-pollination hurdled from the speakers. 2015's New Lines and now Oyster feel almost orthodox in comparison. Instead of approaching techno tradition from the outside, Gengras is working within it.
If that helps to explain why the music isn't pregnant with weirdness, it doesn't justify the lack of vibrancy in its beats. The title cut of Spontaneous Generation, for example, is 20 riveting minutes of sweaty groove research, all forward movement and dizzying synths with zero hesitation. There's no groove on Oyster expending nearly that amount of energy. With its fidgety nervousness and shuffling syncopation, "Window" has a decent amount of swing but still feels somewhat wooden. If Gengras plans on penetrating deeper into techno proper, he'll have to find better ways to enhance the rhythmic intensity as he sticks to the genre's parameters. That's no small feat.