Wild Frontier Fest Preview: The Octopus Project

Some of you have probably heard of the headliner for this weekend’s Wild Frontier Fest. Wavves is the one major out-of-towner that the festival has secured to bring in indie rock fans who may not be drawn in by the bevy of local acts on the bill. However, if you’re reading our site, then you probably are familiar with a few of the other artists slated to perform: Zeale, Zorch, Fresh Millions, Knifight, Sphynx, Marmalakes, My Empty Phantom, and Wild Child have all gotten love from us over the last few months. However, those of you who aren’t familiar with the local Austin music scene may be wondering who the hell is at the top of Day One’s lineup – especially considering that they’re given top billing over the arguably higher-profile White Denim (whom we’ve profiled but didn’t exactly show the love to). Well, consider this your introduction to the Octopus Project.

The Octopus Project formed in Austin in 1999, and began garnering national attention with the second LP, One Ten Hundred Thousand Million, in 2004. Subsequently, they released an album-length collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Black Moth Super Rainbow in 2006 called The House of Apples and Eyeballs, and their own third full-length in 2007 entitled Hello, Avalanche. Like yesterday’s Tactics – and several other Austin bands like My Education, My Empty Phantom, and Explosions in the Sky – they make instrumental music (save for the gorgeous “Queen” – the closing track on Avalanche), but unlike those bands, OP’s music is much more heavily rooted in electronic sounds and programmed beats. This isn’t to say that everything they do is devoid of live instrumentation (one listen to the frenetic “Truck” or the more melancholy “Bees Bein’ Strugglin’,” both from Avalanche, should ease your mind), but the band’s ethos is less around moody atmospherics than it is around uptempo dance jams.

The Octopus Project - Fuguefat

That is, until last year’s Hexadecagon. The above “Fuguefat” is one of two songs (out of the eight on the album) that clocks in under four minutes. The lightly funky “Hallucinists” and album centerpiece “Circling” (with its “Baba O’Reilly” reference) were just too large to be uploaded to our little site here. Hexadecagon was originally conceived and performed as a surround-sound multimedia presentation meant to envelope the listener in sights and sounds to give him a unique musical experience. Clearly, listening to it on a pair of headphones in your apartment can’t replicate that, but the album is still quite compelling in a more traditional setting. This is where the OP have placed a greater emphasis on atmosphere and sound, rather than just songs. Something like “Toneloop,” for example, lacks any kind of beat to it, allowing you to just revel in the shapes of the tones produced. Yet, the OP largely refrain from crafting soundscapes, and instead keep their songs moving and shifting constantly, bringing the listener to new melodic places. It’s definitely a change from their earlier work in both structure and tone, but thanks to their gift for songwriting, proves just as exciting an album as their previous ones.

The Octopus Project go on at Emo’s tomorrow night at midnight. Check out Wild Frontier Fest’s Facebook page for a full list of set times for the two stages over the two days. Hopefully we’ll see you there.

– Carter