Texan experimental indie quartet the Octopus Project started in the late '90s as an almost exclusively instrumental act, crafting high-energy party pop heavy on quirky hooks and electronic dabbling. In the time between 2010's Hexadecagon and 2013's monumental Fever Forms, the band stayed incredibly busy with ventures ranging from scoring several films to providing backup for Devo when an ailing Bob Mothersbaugh couldn't make a gig. Over ten years into their craft, they've come a long way from the basement parties and scrappy jams of their early days. Fever Forms is a highly refined, nonstop flow of color and exuberance, packed not just with vivid and surprising sounds at every turn, but more straightforward pop moments than at most points in the band's history. Though earlier albums were never absent of pop, nothing came close to the almost stunning melodicism of "Whitby." With its beat composed of enormous drum pads and chopped vocal samples meeting with Yvonne Lambert's restrained vocals, the track sounds like Stereolab produced by Prefuse 73, gliding by in two and a half summery, bounding minutes. Tracks like "Death Graduates" and "Sharpteeth" keep the glowing pop elements of Fever Forms going strong, blending more jagged organic drums, orchestral bells, and snarly guitars with electronic elements. Album standout "The Man with the Golden Hand" smashes bright highlife guitar lines and Afro-pop melodies into sawtoothed keyboard pop, ending up with a concise nugget of sugary songwriting that falls somewhere between the Rentals and Vampire Weekend. The group's instrumental roots are not completely abandoned, but played down considerably, with only a few numbers like the theremin-driven "Perhap" and the jumpy beats of "Deep Spice" lacking vocals completely. While not quite as ambitious as Hexadecagon, Fever Forms finds a happier middle ground between the band's continually expanding development and earlier work. With this album, the Octopus Project sound as jubilant and ecstatic as peers like Deerhoof or Dirty Projectors and channel the same optimism and weird charm as the Flaming Lips, while pushing their own unique sound into warmer, more accessible places than expected.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas