The Octopus Project

One Eyed Jacks

June 02, 2006

The Octopus Project is the first instrumental band I've seen where I haven't noticed the lack of vocals until late into their set. This happened at SXSW this year, and it happened again when I caught them opening up for Dios Malos and The Starlight Mints at One Eyed Jacks Friday night. It doesn't seem like anything's missing from The Octopus Project. With soundscapes so engaging, beats so fresh(Kanye West would love this), and such a visually entertaining live show, the band makes vocals seem like a hindrance.

The Austin band is raw yet electronic. Their live show is all about the push and pull they challenge themselves with onstage. The Octopus Project must stay on time with the drum machine(s) as their bodies tell them to lose control to the music. Guitarist Josh Lambert lightly headbangs, performs grandiose guitar moves, and haphazardly throws his body around while multi-instrumetalist Toto Miranda frankly loses his shit flailing and pounding the drums like Animal. How they keep on beat is part of their mystique and definetely their ace in the hole.

While all this craziness is afoot, keyboardist/theremin player Yvonne Lambert mans the group's electronic console, a black box full of wires and pedals and goodies that begs the question: Is all that stuff really turned on? Yvonne is stoic as she operates the beats or turns out a nerdy, high-pitched keyboard melody that sounds very '84-ish. The theremin solo she plays during "Music is Happiness" is a study in restraint and offbeat rhythm.

"Music is Happiness" starts with jagged-edge industro beats mixed with feedback and a guitar solo. Then, the guitar solo and the feedback recess like the tide so that a minor key melody and Yvonee's theremin solo can take their place.

The music, overall, is pretty and playful, while sometimes heavy and brooding, but always ambitious. The players run around in between songs to change instruments or even do it mid-flow. At the beginning of one song, Miranda set up a guitar loop before he hurried behind the drum kit. He didn't have a second to spare before his beat was needed.

In The Octopus Project, danceable beats reminiscent of Aphex Twin mix with silvery space sounds and what can only be described as an English car horn fed through a computer.

They're quirky, and damn, they're good.

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