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The Octopus Project - One Ten Hundred Thousand Million

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Artist: The Octopus Project

Album: One Ten Hundred Thousand Million

Label: Peek-A-Boo Industries

Review date: Jun. 14, 2005

The reason it's Octopus Project rather than Octopus Product is that the trio in question are all about experimentation. (That, and the latter name is kind of stupid.) As would befit a group whose modus operandi is "hooking up their half-broken electronic shit all wrong and playing way too loud," weird things are expected and encouraged to happen from time to time. This is almost painfully evident on their 2002 debut, Identification Parade, which kicks occasional ass but tends more often toward the needlessly cloying: guitars and keys and drums screech and rattle and hum, sometimes backwards, and it's not always pretty. One Ten Hundred Thousand Million is probably the best imaginable follow-up to that album, because while its approach is somewhat standardized at the expense of the dogged "adventurous" spirit, it sounds like the same handful of kids playing with no less of the drive that made the debut's best moments exciting.

In place of the moody and unpredictable post-progressive stylings of the first album, One Ten Hundred offers a more uniform tone, a sort of angelically gritty cacophony reined in by plain rock sensibility. The half-broken electronic shit still audibly burbles and twinkles (and possibly breaks some more) almost all of the time, and on a few less successful tracks it's the focus – hence the uneasy IDM-lite vibe of "Responsible Stu" or "Hold the Ladder." But most of the time it stays at the heels of earnest and epic guitar rock, amplifying the raw primacy without being grating. Twin highlights "Music Is Happiness" and "Tuxedo Hat" are perfect examples: the guitars are overdistorted, the layers of keyboards are working too hard, and the drums are scratchy and probably too tinny, and instead of a mess it all makes a fabulous, concentrated chaos. It's urgent and precise, busy and just shapeshifting enough to compensate for the lack of vocals.

There are other moves too (eight arms to hold you, etc.): "Six Feet Up" thrashes with cheesy cop-movie suspense; "The Adjustor" slows down for a lush Tortoise hum; mathed-up closer "Lots More Stairs" could be the simplest song Tristeza was too mopey to write. Even if One Ten Hundred is monochromatic compared to its predecessor, it's not for listlessness but rather for focus — thanks to which it's that rare second album that recasts and essentially exonerates the problematic first. On Identification Parade you can hear the band groping their way toward something interesting, but it's fully worth it now that they've arrived.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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Identification Parade

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