Octopus4 – The Algorithm

Intro

I’ve managed to sit myself down again for another musical digest. Will it be as long as the last one? Answer is, it’s always difficult to tell, but here goes.

alt="Octopus4"

As with any follow-up album, the critic needs to be equipped with a fresh (and dare I say new) set of ears. To save undergoing expensive, lengthy and traumatic surgery, one simply has to undertake a metaphorical disassembling of one’s previous hearing instruments, followed by a timely acquisition of appropriate replacements. My new ears met with Octopus4 in the same way that someone discovers an underground bunker-cum-nightclub replete with delicious sound and the promise of a morning warming up from euphoria-induced goose pimples.

autoRun

The initial pulse of this track produced a mental image of bacteria splitting and reproducing. I often get such images from listening to instrumental tracks, with one such experience involving an experimental rock album and a multicoloured DNA strand animation playing just behind my eyes until I had to recover privately. I don’t know what this is, but it’s both beautiful and unsettling. Like the tracks that follow, the pace and build up is perfectly timed to give the listener a taste of Gallego’s vision.

Small note: As I didn’t mention this in last week’s review, I think it’s important to mention the drummer, Mike Malyan, and also the man who masters the tracks, Tim Reynolds. I can only imagine the intensity of discussion for a musical collaboration of this nature.

So then, this track keeps the balance of an audience-influenced *Live Music Approach, with the craftsmanship of something designed to be interpreted on a very personal level.

* – I feel a Live music approach is creating a track as if you were feeding from the imagined reactions of an audience who are in your head when you write.

The subtle drum and synthesizer work jumps in and lays off in just the right places. One very important thing to say about this in comparison to the first studio album. It signals the beginning of a work that is less metal than Polymorphic Code. It seems to be that these tracks are generated from a more dance / breakbeat part of Rémi’s mind.

discovery

The second track has quite a Mitch Murder meets Jean Michel Jarre and they make computer game soundtracks feel about it. That’s until it doesn’t, shifting gear into a time signature I haven’t figured out yet. Then it moves into a layer of rhythmic overdrive with a soundscape of synth. If you’re a drummer (air or real) the next section will have you demonstrating your skills in public, even if they’re deemed socially unacceptable. It’s a good time to point out that this album has more of a live drumming sound to it. And I’ll say that even though I may be right off the mark. It’s just plain intuition / observation. Long story short, it won’t disappoint.

_MOS

This track gets to the point almost instantly. It almost has the flavour of a sample or gateway to what follows. At 1:57 it’s probably safe to say that a good many people will also come to this conclusion. Despite the brevity here, it’s one of my favourite pieces on Octopus4. It’s also on full computer game mode. For example, if you want to feel like you’re flying a virtual fighter jet through cumulus clouds full of gremlins playing bagpipes, then this track is probably for you. Furthermore, at the 35 second mark (I’ll call this section the pre-chorus) the drum lead-up is exquisite, building tension that’s almost distracting if you’re trying to keep an eye out for your train stop.

will smith

This track appears to have nothing to do with the bad rapper, passable actor, and man who crowbarred his son into the film industry, the honourable Will Smith. Or maybe it’s ironically dedicated (which could account for the lowercase spelling). This track does evolve rapidly, further confirming The Algorithm’s place as a real talent-engine when it comes to fusing multiple genres into one sequential, melodic and compelling package. My favourite part of this track comes about one minute in, then at 2:40. The one minute in section is a bit of tribal prog, whereas at 2:40 a tasteful groove kicks in with some crystal-sharp little touches to lend to the overall mix. I must admit, I didn’t like the opening much, but it shifts so quickly that I was impressed. This goes to prove really, if you don’t like what you hear in the first 30 seconds, you probably will in the next. Again, by and large, I have to say I rate this track.

ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS

It’s unlikely I’ll ever paste a blog section heading like this again, so I’ll revel in it a little. ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS teases with an opening section that’s rich with attacking kick drum and tom fills. This underpins high-pitched synth notes which fall in line with the hit of the kick drum. Together, this gives the feeling of objects falling into place beyond the outer walls of some kind of factory full of eccentric night shift workers. There’s more, in the form of a complex melodic network operating alongside the two aforementioned features. The percussion build up and subsequent climax from 2:35 onwards pretty much confirms this track is another winner.

synthesiz3r

I’ve lost count of the amount of words I’ve ‘Added to dictionary’ today. This tracks maintains the momentum of what is a largely energetic album. The introduction is absolutely stellar. At 1:05 it breaks into a variation on a gangster rap groove. This small section on its own is a turning point for the album, reinstating (and I don’t think this can be mentioned enough) that part of The Algorithm’s artistic ethos is to create rhythmic and melodic pathways between previously disparate genres.

damage points

This distinguishes itself from the preceding tracks by starting with a loose, almost broken beat (where bass and snare samples attack at random). This emerges into a cohesive and original groove and synthesizer arrangement, which by itself could easily occupy me on a train ride through the noise-filtered London smog. Then Wam!, drum and bass, before combining the broken rhythm with the synth-groove arrangement. If listened to carefully, you’ll notice a cyclical pattern of motifs, which I think is where this track gets its strength from.

void

I believe this track channels Jean Michel Jarre quite keenly. If you sit with this on long enough in a darkened room with a whisky and soda water, you may imagine you’ve begun a transition into another bodily form. It’s distinctly meditative. The faint sample of an instructional video for some kind of data computing process? adds an eerie quality. The overall sound and texture is ambient, trance-like, created to convert one’s mind from formerly active to a sort of passive, weightless intoxication. A good feeling if you’re suited to opiates like me.

loading

A deliberate link from ‘void’, ‘loading’ has the shape of a computer game adventure / eventual battle montage sequence. It is a pocket-sized musical journey. It’s references to the great gaming composers adds to a need to advance this medium structurally. Given what the following tracks have in store, the album now truly begins to take the shape of a computer game narrative.

un dernier combat

I’ve Google translated this one. It seems to mean ‘One Last Fight’, or ‘A final Combat’. From a narrative point of view, it signals a climactic point of aggression between a set of characters or opposing elements. As well as a return to previous motifs, such as the drop-catch rhythms heard in previous tracks, this also features French rapping towards the end. As my grasp of this particular language is, let’s say, very limited, I relied on the sound rather than the meaning of the words to form my critical reading of this track. Overall, not one of my favourites, but there’s so much more to compensate, that it qualifies for a fifty-fifty rating.

recovery fail!

The penultimate track on the album, ‘recovery fail’ has an untameable quality about it. During many parts of this track it has real prodigy feel. By 1:46 it moves from sinister little compositions to a fantastic section with voiceover breathing samples. It ends with meandering, bubbly keyboard and electrically charged sound effects to an effective and immediate stop.

octopus4

The final track is the closest you’re going to get to a four-on-the-floor beat. Despite the East Asian influence, this could be confused with a pop song. Not for long, because terrestrial radio stations would explode the split second it sounded remotely unprofitable. If you found any other sections of this album not to your liking, then the final offering will help to tie things up perfectly.

Outro

I didn’t originally like this album beyond the first three songs. I’ll admit, I was pretty shallow about the whole collection. But on repeated listens, and having listened again in detail for this review, I’ve changed my mind significantly. It is a swift reminder of the continuous invention running through this, and the previous album.

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