When you and your fellow musicians have a reputation as the band that “hooked up their half-broken electronic shit all wrong,” you create expectations, not the least of which is that listeners should prepare themselves for an abrasive, uncompromising mess of noise. The latest release from this Austin-based band, however, is anything but. Sure, there’s a lot of noise on this record, but it’s all in service of the melodic, driving, instrumental goodness contained herein. Sometimes the Octopus Project sounds like Fennesz or Four Tet, sometimes they sound like Fennesz or Four Tet remixing Led Zeppelin, and sometimes they just sound good.
Structurally, the tunes here have a lot in common with IDM — as in, there is no discernable structure. But almost every song on this album feels like a rock song. That’s due in no small part to an abundance of live instrumentation, including a lot of guitars. Though it starts with some keyboards and ends with a fiery ball of squelch, the clanging drums and frenetic pace of opener “Exit Counselor” get you in head-bobbing mode right off the bat. But the blend of electronics and emotive harmonies doesn’t really get going until “The Adjustor,” which exudes an air of regret and sadness — despite that it has no lyrics and totally rocks.
They work that magic across the entire record, alternating between hopped-up post-rockers and pill-pounding knob-twiddlers, careful never to let either feeling take over. That sense of balance creates a tension that keeps you listening, waiting to see what they’ll do next. And here’s a hint: They’ll either fill your brain with a dense collage of samples over glitchy beats (“Responsible Stu”), or they’ll fire you up with a blast of distorted guitars (“Six Feet Up”). Either way, I’ve never heard a mess with so much to offer.