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Album Review: Octave Minds – Octave Minds

Octave Minds

Artist: Octave Minds
Album: Octave Minds
Tracks: 11
Release Date: September 15th
Label: Boysnoize Records

Forget you know anything about Chilly Gonzales or Boys Noize and just know this, this self-titled album they’ve released under the joint title of Octave Minds is nothing less than an experience.

From the first delicate piano touches atmospherically paving the road to the listener’s imagination, you know that Octave Minds is something that has been crafted with great care.

The first track on the album that brings these piano touches into the mix is titled Symmetry Slice, and those touches are then met gradually with some soft synthesiser parts. These parts are subtle, but they build a pulse to the track, before flourishing into some more energetic and layered synthesiser sounds that serve to add definition to that pulse.  Symmetry Slice is the gentle introduction to this album, which is why it’s so important that it’s of such a high quality and almost seamlessly slips into the next track on the album, Anthem.

Whilst it may have many things in common with the first track in the way that it builds and begins with more piano parts (a theme throughout Octave Minds), Anthem still manages to differ enough to start to take the album as a whole in a particular direction. What’s so fantastic about it is the fact that some very rich, yet soft-sounding horns accompany the reoccurring piano parts, adding some very deep sounds to the listening experience. Once these grand horns are brought into the mix, the light and quick percussion sounds are added and bring the pace and energy to what would have been a slow and emotional composition. Anthem is a very apt title for this track, as it is very anthemic in composition, but it’s also brilliant how the rhythm hasn’t been lost in favour of the quality of the soundscape being kept.

From these first two tracks within the album it’s really clear to see the compositional background of Chilly Gonzales fuse together with the more electronic production of Boys Noize, something which isn’t crudely put together like some bad collaboration, but is really the meeting of two very distinct styles trying to work together.

Anthem is followed by a different type of track, but yet one that is so similar in terms of anthem-like qualities. The main interesting thing about this track, Initials KK, is that most of the composition’s body is built on the use of different vocal samples, samples which are essentially soft chants. Why I have said that this is similar to Anthem is due to the fact that these chants become very anthemic, but in almost a mantra-like manner. For me I think Initials KK is a clever use of vocals as a compositional instrument, rather than solely a lyrical-delivery device, something which Octave Minds have managed to create well.

In a very interesting development within Octave Minds though, Tap Dance feat. Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment follows Initials KK, in what is the first real vocal track of the album. The verses within this track are casually delivered and are very well-matched for the ambient vibes of this album although I did find that at one point, the delivery did seem to transition back into another instrumental part of the track very abruptly, which was a little disappointing. However, after the instrumental interlude, the vocals were brought back into the mix again to sing out the track in a very upbeat and ambient way, which was executed well. I could be reading into it a little too much, but I also have to commend Octave Minds on readying the listener for the first and only track with lyrics being delivered, by the inclusion of Initials KK prior to Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment’s debut on the album. It was a very clever idea to go from vocal chants, to lyrical delivery.

Ambience is probably the best word to describe this album, but it’s an ambient album with phases of rhythm, however lightly that rhythm is delivered. Tracks like Royalty and Done Deal demonstrate some of the harder rhythmic elements within this album, whilst titles like OM display a softly hidden rhythm tenderly carrying the album along.

Octave minds 1By the time I reached Projectionist, I felt that perhaps the album could have started introducing some more interesting elements to the compositions. After that track however, came Done Deal. Done Deal starts off as a number of the tracks on this album do, gently and with piano parts. The difference with this composition however, is that there then develops some dark and outright rhythm-heavy parts, due to some bouncy,  yet bass-filled synthesiser sounds. In an even stranger mix of different elements, a lone electric guitar plays some distorted solo parts over the head-nodding rhythm. Whilst I was longing for some more interesting parts within this album, I’m not sure that the guitar part really fits properly within Done Deal or the rest of the album. For me in fact, it changed the feel of the track, from being very rhythm-heavy and quite dark in its sound, to being a little cheesy, like some kind of dark 80s electro.

After the fun and different Done Deal though, the listener is returned to the very ambient track, In Silence. There’s nothing wrong with this track, but at this point in the album, it feels as though it’s the signifier of the release coming to an end, returning to the running theme and adding another similar-sounding title to the tracklist, perhaps getting listeners ready for the closing track, Symmetry Slice Pt. 2.

The final track on Octave Minds is unfortunately, a little bit of an anti-climax. Building intensely with ambient energy, Symmetry Slice Pt.2 really feels as though it’s going somewhere, but after 1:36, the track is finished and the listening experience is over, leaving the listener high-and-dry, left in silence without a proper conclusion.

Octave Minds is a beautifully-written album from two great musicians. Without a doubt, this release is an experience, but it is one that is slightly mixed. This album starts off very strong and has a great variety of sounds, especially throughout the first half. The horns, chants and rap add colour to what is a very meticulously put together ambience, forming an almost-immaculate journey. However, it’s in the latter half of the release that this ambience generally becomes a little less eventful, and with the one major track of diversity, Done Deal, it does feel slightly out of place and over the top in parts. Coupled with this lack of variety, the closing track also adds a little irritation, as it essentially builds up to nothing, leaving the listener to feel as though they’re missing the rest of the track.

This criticism of Octave Minds is fair, but you should also consider the fact that most of (if not all of) these tracks are very good compositions on their own. If you are listening to this album more passively, then the general ambience and similarity of tracks will most-likely be a positive attribute, rather than a negative one. However, if Octave Minds is going to be listened to more closely, you will hear the missed opportunities and may even get slightly disheartened, as you hear the contrast between what the duo are capable of multiple times throughout the release, and where they didn’t quite continue to keep that variety up.

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