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The Octopus Project – Hexadecagon

on October 28, 2010, 8:00am
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The Octopus Project have been ripe with the potential to take off since breaking out of Austin, but it’s been a slow road. The live shows were tight, and the enthusiasm was certainly there, but they had yet to make a record that wholly satisfying from front to back. However, now they seem to be amongst those in the indieverse who’ve finally struck gold and made their best record yet. Hexadecagon feels like a new chapter for the band as they’re working with a sound that’s both fully realized and incredibly tight.

Last we heard from them, The Octopus Project had done something quite curious. With last summer’s Golden Bends EP, they created straight-up rock songs, right down to the lyrics. It was quite a departure from their usual kaleidoscopic instrumental barrage, and it garnered some mixed reactions from fans. After all, they hadn’t heard from the band in three years, and when they returned, it had been an incredibly reinvention of who they originally were. Would this be a new direction? As it turns out, no, that moment was fleeting, and with their first full-length since Hello Avalanche, they’re back to true form, and bigger than they’ve ever been.

From the opener of Hexadecagon, “Fuguefat” is a flurry of piano’s very reminiscent of past work from Avalanche. It’s a familiar way to start the new record, and right away you can hear a new, bigger production quality. When it comes to their overall sound, they’ve stuck to their guns from the previous record, keeping much of what they do driving and intricate. Here it is mostly no different (though the songs are longer) but with the stepped up production, and a no frills take on instrumentation, it feels very fresh. The record seldom loosens its grip on you as it swirls around, which can, quite honestly, be exhausting at points. The lo-fi tone has once again been abandoned for a marathon of a record that exchanges just as many cues from jazz as it does post-rock.

Throughout the record, the synths and Theremin appear, but they are no longer the main point as it’s now about getting back to the basic band elements: guitars, bass, and drums. “A Phantasy” is full of electronic hums and synth melodies, but at the center of those elements is a band that is now wholly organic. Even “Glass Jungle” and “Catalog”, which are the most reminiscent of those older electronic and guitar-based jams, takes this new aesthetic to heart and it makes you wonder why they hadn’t been doing it this way all along.

While this new approach certainly was risky, hindsight now shows that this was the best move they could have made. Strip the guitars, bring in a piano, lose the fuzzy effects for cleaner ones, and see what happens to the songwriting formula. The result is quite beautiful and when the climax hits with the 11-minute “Circling” they’ll have your jaw on the floor.

With this, we have a much more focused record, and are given a consistency from track to track that until now had been absent and frankly held them back. Well, it’s absent no more, making Hexidecagon the most solid record to come from The Octopus Project to date. The sound is crystal, and the ideas are as fresh as they’ve ever been as they enter a new realm of post-rock. Thus Hexadecagon has the potential to make a sweeter future for The Octopus Project. From their beginning, the band chose to make the kind of music that demands a painstakingly high standard of creativity, and after nearly a decade of pushing their boundaries, they’ve finally nailed it.

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