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  One Ten Hundred Thousand Million  
  The Octopus Project  
  Peek-a-boo Records  
Release Date:
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I've had One Ten Hundred Thousand Million, the latest release by The Octopus Project, in my CD player since the day I received it over two months ago. Normally, this can mean only one of two things. First, Iím not sure what to make of the album, so I need to wait so as to figure out my thoughts. But, in this case, the reason I've held on to it for so long is quite simply the fact that I love this album, and have a hard time finding the words to explain why.

But before I go into this, here are a few facts. The Octopus Project are a three piece band from Austin, Texas. One Ten Hundred Thousand Million is their second full length album on Peek-a-boo Records. Consisting of 11 tracks, this record shows the band in a slightly different musical light than their previous album, Identification Parade. While both albums are instrumental and rocking, the new record seems somehow more organic and less dissonant than the previous one. And, finally, did I mention I really like it?

One Ten Hundred Thousand Million begins with Exit Counselor, a song whose focal point are its spacey effects and a cymbal-heavy percussion line. It seems rather electronic, mainly because of the varied synth sounds; things are distorted. Nevertheless, the driving drums move the song along to its quick conclusion. In contrast, the next song, The Adjustor starts off slowly with low guitars bouncing off the keyboards and an electronically generated beat, which makes the entire song feel like a lost track from the mid 80s. Throughout, new sound elements appear and meld into the primary song structure, so that the music grows into a different whole.

However, it's back to the quicker, edgier sound with All of the Champs That Have Ever Lived, which is a track that I particularly like. It begins with a spoken word sample, then moves on to a slightly glitchy beat and keyboard. Finally, the very harsh and almost brutal percussion of Toto Miranda comes in. This distinctive drumming pattern feels almost mathy, and unifies the song as it changes. Finally, the guitars run through a series of what seems like a repetitive riff, but which in reality changes a bit on each run through. Eventually each guitar, and the keyboards as well, holds its own unique melody. From there, the strains within the song combines and then recombines to become something new at the ending. This ability to build something out of apparently simple parts is a particular strength of The Octopus Project.

Other songs on One Ten Hundred Thousand Million demonstrate the band's versatility and vision. For instance, Music is Happiness, another highlight of the album, combines the heavy, fast percussion with minor keyed keyboards against a background of distorted guitar. As the song goes on and becomes both louder and faster, it seems that multiple new melodies move into play. This all reaches a crescendo that seems unsustainable before the song then breaks apart into a spacey bridge. Just as the song mellows out , it again begins to build and become tense until suddenly the band brings everything back around to the original melodic construction. At the end of the song, I personally feel breathless and convinced that I've just heard an aural work of art.

Likewise, Malaria Codes begins slowly with an organ and a very synthetic burping sound. Slowly, an electronic beat comes in and contrasts with the sedate keyboard work. But then a guitar enters and plays off the other sounds, so that I can hear all the separate musical elements. As I get lost in all of the strains of the music, it seems so very achingly beautiful that I almost wish this could go on and on.

All in all, there are no weak tracks on this album, and The Octopus Project manages to close with a perfect ending. Lots More Stars is quite pretty with mournful guitars playing off the keyboards, filled with simple arpeggios and chord changes. This song gives closure to the entire enterprise and has absolutely no dissonance or wrong elements. And this song, like the rest of the album, leaves me feeling both totally fulfilled and yet still wanting more.

One Ten Hundred Thousand Million is one of those albums that bridges the gap between post-rock, electronica, and straight up Indie Rock. As such, it's really hard to put into universal terms and even harder to draw comparisons with, if only because The Octopus Project doesn't sound like anything else. However, I have to say that both PostLibyan and I, who have divergent musical tastes, both really really like this album. And, if you can believe it or not, I think it's for the same reasons. And to be able to find and record a language that we both intuitive understand is a truly impressive achievement.

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Tracers saw The Octopus Project perform many of the songs on this album at South by Southwest 2005.


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