Hello, Avalanche, the third proper full-length from the Octopus Project, is too gorgeous to be called forgettable, but it’s definitely hard to remember very much about it when it’s not actually playing. I mean that as a good thing, mostly. The Projects’ last enterprise, a collaboration with Black Moth Super Rainbow entitled The House of Apples and Eyeballs, was a very different story; it commanded attention and repeated listens by aggressively jumping out of the speakers. In the light of Hello, Avalanche, it seems Black Moth Super Rainbow was probably responsible for most of the freaked-out raucousness on that album. This one isn’t rambunctious; it’s restrained. But it’s playful and, in its own polite way, joyful.
Hello, Avalanche has been constructed with sounds carefully plucked from all over the sonic spectrum. Electronic bleeps and bloops, chirpy Nintendo sounds, fuzzed-out electric guitars, xylophone, and theremin all peacefully cohabitate. Furthermore, each track is stylistically distinct from the others. “Snow Tip Cap Mountain” is a beautiful opener, as soothing as a lullaby, but “Truck” comes right on its heels with its driving rock drums and guitar. “Mmaj,” the darkest part of the album, is a dance track built around one short repeated phrase. But Hello, Avalanche’s most entrancing moments all occur within the almost four-minute playing time of “I Saw the Bright Shinies,” a glorious and haunted piece of music. A prominent theremin part floats on top of gently propulsive techno. It retains all of the ghostliness that traditionally characterizes the instrument but, by its placement here, it gains new layers of charm and optimism.
You wouldn’t exactly call this a subtle album. If I wanted to, I could go through it and locate the rock part and the trip-hop part or whatever. I could analyze its pop music DNA without much trouble at all. But that’s not something that Hello, Avalanche asks for. It gathers up its loose ends and tucks them into its one pleasantly streamlined aesthetic. It’s wildly eclectic and it doesn’t so much hide its seams as render them unworthy of comment. In our era, inundated with copy-and-paste ideology, that might be the most impressive thing about it.