Music

The Octopus Project: Hello Avalanche

Adam Bunch

Instrumental music for the MTV-raised, ADHD-infected, Architecture in Helsinki-loving indie popster.


The Octopus Project

Hello Avalanche

Label: Peek-A-Boo
US Release Date: 2007-10-16
UK Release Date: 2007-10-15
Amazon
iTunes

You kind of have to figure that any instrumental pop band comes into things at a bit of a disadvantage. A human voice and some actual words -- catchy or meaningful or insipid as they maybe be -- are, you have admit, the accepted industry standard. It's not that you can't make great vocal-less pop music (Lord knows there's a long list of exceptional bands who have), but it certainly must pose a challenge. Making a great record is hard enough without depriving yourself of any chance to put together a catchy chorus or a clever turn of phrase. I mean, those are a large part of what makes pop music so popular in the first place, aren't they? And a large part of why classical music and instrumental jazz have a harder time finding an audience.

I also suspect that, try as we might to seem more sophisticated and refined than your average music listener, we indie types are really no exception to the rule. Oh sure, we've got a healthy respect for a few instrumental electronic acts, and some of us may even love some of them, but we're also the same group of people who have been known to spend hours analyzing the lyrics of a particularly literary Destroyer song, or getting all teary-eyed over a couple of lines off the latest Iron & Wine record. Plus, let's face it, we're children of the Internet age. We're easily distracted. All those catchy words and hidden meanings help keep us focused. And by contrast, instrumental music so often feels just plain boring.

So in light of all this, you've got to give a band like the Octopus Project a lot of credit before you've ever even heard a note, just for trying to sell lyric-less music to an MTV-raised, ADHD-infected, Architecture in Helsinki-loving generation of indie popsters. And once you've tucked Hello, Avalanche (their fourth full-length) into a cozy corner of your iPod and actually listened to it, you're bound to give them even more. For an instrumental record, Hello, Avalanche keeps things impressively interesting the whole way through.

A lot of that has to do with borrowing heavily from the usual ADHD-indie-pop handbook. To keep things fresh, the Austin, Texas, trio uses a lot of the same tricks we've heard from a slew of indie bands over the few years: they use a long list of instruments (guitars, synths, horns, strings, glockenspiels, theremins, miscellanous electronic squiggles and Nintendo bleeps), they cycle through things quickly, they keep the songs short (only one tops the four minute mark), and they never let a piece drag on too long before launching into something new. Sure, it means that there are a few times on the album when you're left feeling like you're just listening to a Go! Team or Architecture in Helsinki song where the vocals just never kick in, but most of the time you're too busy enjoying the transitions to care

Still, I have to admit that when the band finally does break down and start singing along in chorus during the last track, "Queen", it's my favourite part of the entire album. No matter how good the rest of the record might be, those last couple of minutes feel like a breath of fresh air. And as someone who does like a few lyrics and a human voice in their pop music now and again, I can't help but wonder if Hello, Avalanche might have been even better had they broken down right at the beginning and sung along the whole way through.

But then again, who cares? The Octopus Project have made an excellent record, and you'll love it plenty for just what it is.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.