Monday, November 05, 2007

The Octopus Project - Hello, Avalanche

Download: The Octopus Project - "Vanishing Lessons"
Download: The Octopus Project - "Truck"
Download: The Octopus Project - "An Evening With Rthrtha"

The Octopus Project
Hello, Avanlance (Peek-A-Boo Records, 2007)
Grade: B

One of the most appealing aspects of instrumental post-rock is that it isn't confined to verse-chorus-verse song structure. As a result, the subgenre has much more room to experiment with sounds and instrumentation. The most notable of these groups use a standard rock configuration as a springboard to sonic adventurousness, as well as a catalyst for their own potentially boundless creativity.

However, there are some groups, most notably Canada's Broken Social Scene, who have used the post-rock template to create instrumentals that help give more straightforward (within the context of indie-rock, mind you) pop records a slightly more cryptic feel to them. Think of songs like BSS' "Late Night Bedroom Rock For The Missionaries" from You Forgot It In People. To me, these tracks are usually the least exciting, though still worthwhile ultimately. The problem is that they can't seem to shit or get off the experimental musical pot. In other words, they're not out there enough to be fully engaging, but are also too strange for someone to just turn their brains off and soak in the ambience.

The Octopus Project, a band hailing from Austin, TX, have created an entire record full of primarily instrumental songs called Hello, Avalanche. Though the album is definitely enjoyable - "I Saw The Bright Shinies" has vocal manipulations that sound awesomely ghostly - listening to Hello, Avalanche made me wonder why these particular songs were instrumentals to begin with. Sure, tracks like "A Evening With Rthrhta" and "Mmaj" bounce along with enthusiastic grooves (the latter has a distinctly techno vibe, while the former has a slinky, syncopated bass line that fuels the songs dance-ability) and the rest of Avalanche has an upbeat mood that makes tasks like doing laundry feel like nothing.

But listening to Avalanche feels like hearing the foundations of songs that are awaiting vocal tracks. Only a select few, such as "Upmann", are exploratory enough to where you feel like you are actually hearing something experimental. Though Hello, Avalanche is a good listen, one feels like The Octopus Project should have (like the post-rock forebearers) push the envelope just a little bit more and, in doing so, would have come up with something great, rather than something good.

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(Jonathan Graef)

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