The Octopus Project: Fever Forms – Fever Forms marks the return of music-kind’s quirkiest eight-armed instrumental project, although in recent years this project has hardly been absent. Despite the fact that their eleven-year-old discography is composed of only five full-length records, the Austin weirdos have been busy churning out film and video game soundtracks, as well as EP‘s and collaborations. Perhaps it’s this kind of unwavering work ethic that makes them a “project” rather than a “band” or “group.” Despite their playful tendencies it’s difficult to look past the all-too-evident fact that these musicians aren’t just fooling around, they’re actually working.
As is the case in most of their music. Every track on Fever Forms revolves around Toto Miranda’s busy drumming, which serves as a sturdy anchor throughout the album. Once Miranda sets the track’s pace, the rest of the band is able to add several layers of color to the raw black-and-white beat best exemplified on the almost rap-overable (and almost word) ‘Perhap.’ Although the drumming remains mostly consistent throughout the album, the band takes each track in very different directions. From the Maserati-like relentlessness of ‘Pyramid Kosmos’ to the Bathsian smooth, well, sighs of ‘Choi Sighs’ and the handclap beats of Handsome Furs heard on ‘Mmkit,’ Fever Forms covers half a dozen genres while remaining distinctively Octopus Project.
The album certainly covers a lot of ground very quickly, but the quartet are definitely not a jam band; there are very few instances on the album that sound the least bit unscripted. Whereas other instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky have moments of downtime in their ebb-and-flow tracks of epic proportion, the Octo Proj don’t have that kind of freedom in their usual three minutes of track time. This ebb-or-flow approach to songwriting often leads to a joyful constipation (as awful as that sounds) that is finally relieved at the end of the album’s closer ‘Sharpteeth’ which resembles the chaotic way in which many bands wrap up a raucous set.
The one thing that sets the band, er, project, apart from all other instrumental acts is the inclusion of vocals, something the Project has dabbled with in the past, but has most fully utilized on Fever Forms. It’s okay though, their status as “instrumental” hasn’t changed at all since the use of vocals is not at all for lyrical value (as very few of the lyrics are at all audible). Instead their voices are meant to be heard as just another layer of colorful sound (as it seems they’ve run out of all other suitable instruments to tinker with), as well as an entirely necessary reminder that the band is not, in fact, composed of actual octopuses. In creating this new layer, though, there are instances where they lead the track in a surprising direction. For instance, the album’s first single ‘Whitby’ showcases Yvonne Lambert’s voice technologically modified in a way that resembles the aforementioned collaborator Black Moth Super Rainbow, while ‘The Man With Golden Hands’ actually almost sounds like something that a normal human being would listen to.
Yet the Octopus Project’s eccentricities will certainly keep them a safe distance from our radios for years to come. Their knack for Magritte-like unorthodoxy in songwriting is matched only by their enigmatic half-synesthetic half-onomatopoetic track names which somehow only make sense in the context of the songs themselves. Fever Forms may very well be their Son of Man in its unique normalcy-hindered-by-surprising-focal-point style. While it blends aspects of each of their previous albums, there’s still certainly something much more mature about Fever Forms, especially in comparison to the childlike innocence of the Adventure Time-esque (audibly and visually, I might add) Hello, Avalanche. No other album this year has taken playtime so seriously…9.0/10