(Every show has more than one story right?)
On Friday night (October 8, 2010), The Octopus Project played Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. I wasn’t familiar with their brand of electronic psychedelica, having only really heard Hexadecagon.
Hexadecagon touched upon minimalist composers, video sequences and “happiness seizures” which intrigued me. It all sounded a bit Dan Deacon-ish, but in doing some further digging, it wasn’t like that at all. On the surface it could be; electro acoustic compositions that push your sense of time to a near stand still as dissenting loops are pushed together into a whole, where the shape of the room changes the sounds you hear and how you react.
Happiness Seizure isn’t far off, to be frank. From the opening notes of the first song, “Fuguefat,” I had a smile on my face as large as the room, and any sort of “professional demeanor” was gone with the rushes of ecstasy washing over the room and clapping and cheering broke out which each chord change. Someone brought in a sack of glowstick necklaces and threw them to all corners of the room providing little pinpoints of participants in neon colors which caught and complemented the sounds from the stage as their wearers bounced in time, extendending the show’s tense visual flavor.
That visual flavor was, unfortunately, a bit muted. The sequence of video that the band had brought along was projected onto thick black curtains behind the act, so that the sequenced animations were not visible, denying the crowd the chance to see what other cities got to experience. This video animation was complemented by an amp stack which was wrapped in Christmas lights then draped in a white sheet with eyes made of tape and another stack was covered in geometric reactive stripes whose back-lit black light made every thing on stage as strong as the brief snatches of color dancing in the crowd.
Special shout out for the theremin playing of Yvonne Lambert. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the theremin used as anything other than a special effect as Yvonne teased full melody and contra-melody from the device to great effect during the 10 minute long “Circling,” and taking the center stage for the near solo work of “Toneloop” which sounds like catching a cry from Heaven on your radio at 1 AM. It’s difficult to not call it “masterful” because it’s clearly a new league above other acts using the instrument but there’s really little comparison beyond educational videos glimpsed from times long gone.
Not to say that the rest of the band wasn’t impressive, as everyone on stage proved to be a multi-instrumentalist; as guitarists became bassists became drummers became keyboardists in seemingly equal measure. The visual accompaniment of the musicians themselves in constant motion was almost enough to make up for the lack of actual visuals barely glimpsed, like shadows on a cave wall.
And that’s what it was like. It was like tribal storytelling, music from beyond the ether handed down to the God touched performers. Dangerously close to hippy dippy jam bad territory, but also smart enough to know when to pull back. The Octopus Project is impressive live and you deserve to experience it.