Few artists experience as much of a change as Octo Octa (Maya Bouldry-Morrison) between the course of two albums. While Between Two Selves saw an inventive house DJ dealing with crippling self-doubt and anxiety, her first album since transitioning, Where Are We Going?, seemed to expel many of those fears and revel in the confidence of finally being able to reveal her true self to the world.
In many respects new EP, For Lovers, feels like a necessary bridge between her first two albums and whatever may follow in the future. The three tracks on here act as a kind of emotional purging. A cathartic stop on a remarkable journey that allows her time to reflect on the person she is now, both in terms of her relationship to her music, and on her relationships with those around her. Understandably then, both musically and thematically, it also stands as her most rawly personal work to date.
“I Need You” opens with distant, dreamlike chanting and atmospheric synth swells that act as the binding agent for the track. Gradually, twinkling piano notes and stuttering breakbeats are added as she fluffs the mix into something airy and delicate. For the first time since transitioning, Bouldry-Morrison’s vocals are woven through a track like faltering echoes of only half heard sentences. It is clear that this is an intensely personal song for her. Coming from a very vulnerable, isolated place, over time, she has come to realise that she is not alone. That the people she can count on are those people that allow her to be the person she really is.
Riding a house dub bassline and tribal percussion “Bodies Meld Together” ups the tempo. Featuring hazy synths, ticking percussion and vocal samples that ripple into the distance, it’s the aural equivalent of being gently immersed in a warm bath. A feeling reflected in the meaning behind the song as she explores the spiritual cleansing that can be achieved through physical connection. Full of sophisticated electronic textures with gently ruffled layers that seem to be constantly changing shape, it’s a compelling house song that will hopefully be a feature of her set for years to come.
“Loops for Healing” is a song that was written immediately after completing her excellent second album Where Are We Going? As the title suggests, it’s a profoundly personal, downtempo track that was written simply to show how being immersed in the process of making music can heal and rehabilitate. Again, it’s an absorbing listen with dreamlike echoes and tentacle-like synth lines seemingly stretching for miles before coiling and warmly embracing the listener.
For Lovers may be a very vulnerable, tender record for Octo Octa but it is a necessary one. These three tracks show a bold, confident artist who possesses an emotional freedom not heard before in her work. Far removed from anything she has done before, it’s the sound of an artist clearing the way to follow whatever direction she chooses next.