The Octopus Project’s latest LP, Fever Forms is a boisterous, poppy change of pace from 2010’s thematically darker and more progressive-sounding Hexadecagon, but it still bears the earmarks I have come to expect from this band. The Octopus Project was the most obscure of the few Austin bands I was into before moving to Texas. I stumbled upon the band practically by accident after discovering their collaborative album with Black Moth Super Rainbow: The House of Eyeballs and Apples. I was just starting to get more into instrumental and post rock at the time and The Octopus Project’s unique blend of synth and live instruments had a fresh, alluring quality whose replayability I couldn’t deny. While much brighter, this latest offering by the band is no less impressive than their previous work and just may be their most accessible album to date.
Fever Forms doesn’t waste any time getting down to business with a trio of powerful tracks leading things off. Starting with a single note and building from a simple bass/guitar combo, “The Falls” quickly explodes into a dance-tastic jumble of electronic noise and poppy synth, that will feel very familiar for existing fans. Featuring a mix of chip tune machines and guitars, “Pyramid Kosmos” follows with a similarly familiar sound that’s something like a cross between 8-bit rockers Anamanaguchi and former post rock heavy hitters From Monument to Masses. Track three is where everything changes on this record, at least momentarily. The album’s first single, “Whitby,” is straight up synth pop and downright bubble-gummy. For all intents and purposes I should hate it, but this is no mere mass-produced formulaic pop song; “Whitby”’s multiple layers and artful arrangements are so cleverly constructed that I can’t help but be impressed into tapping my toes.
The rest of the album is quality, but doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the opening 11 minutes. “Death Graduates” follows “Whitby” as another very approachable track, this time with more of an indie rock feel, like that of The Octopus Project covering The Arcade Fire. “Mmkit” is a short but sweet instrumental rocker built off a distinct and driving bass line. About 2/3 of the way through we’re treated to Fever Forms’ most psychedelic and chill moment with “Perhap.” A mellow space jam, “Perhap” has me conjuring images of fruity, umbrella-garnished drinks being consumed somewhere just off the shoulder of Orion. Album closer “Sharpteeth” wraps up this collection of songs in an appropriately bombastic style. Featuring a combination of chip tune-ish synths, crashing cymbals, and roaring guitars, “Sharpteeth” builds to the kind of cacophonous expression of musical jubilation we’ve come to expect not just from The Octopus Project in general, but from Fever Forms especially.
If you’ve never listened to The Octopus Project before, but want to give them a go then this is the album to jump on board with. For synth and indie rockers alike there is a lot of latch onto here and the band never sacrifices style and integrity for accessibility. While 2010’s Hexadecagon probably remains my favorite album by The Octopus Project, I can’t deny that Fever Forms has gotten under my skin. All told, this is a bright, fun, summer album, by one of Austin’s finest.
– Brian Audette