Monday, August 3, 2009

The Octopus Project @ Mercury Lounge

The Octopus Project at The Mercury Lounge New York
All day Sunday, I was extremely excited to see The Octopus Project. I have a very fond if hazy recollection of their set at the SXSW 2007 Little Radio Party, where I saw them for the first time. I think they played with Peter Bjorn and John, Brothers and Sisters and PELA. Even through the haze, it's still one of the best SXSW shows I can remember. The GOLDEN BEDS EP came to me in an email, and I have been enjoying it a great deal. So much so, that I was actually writing a review when I saw the Mercury Show on the schedule. Seeing a band live in the midst of writing about their new record is such a catalyst, especially when the band's live show is as good as The Octopus Project. They have become even better than when I saw them a couple of years ago; I wouldn't hesitate to put Sunday night's show in the top 20 best all time shows I have ever seen.

The Octopus Project at The Mercury Lounge New York
Photo: Jeremy Arambulo

Yvonne Lambert commands the intense focus of the audience, like sort of visual keystone to the show. Perched over her machines, which make dangerous sounds, she controls them with a calm smile and measured movements. All of her instruments (save the guitar) seem disassociated somehow, and she seems to be conducting them rather than playing them. I know with a theremin this might seem like an obvious metaphor, but I found it to be a consistent throughout, more the reason that she plays the theremin than vice versa. It was every bit as intriguing as the Cindy Sherman portraits I had seen earlier that day the MET; the beautiful female in conversation with things beyond affirming or denying our fascination with appearance, being shocked by opposites etc. The entire live experience of witnessing the band making music is somehow just more exciting and moving than the sum of its parts. I can only attribute it to that mysterious unity a band sometimes manages to balance for a time on its collectively outstretched finger. With any discord at all, it simply rolls off the tip, but all moving in the same direction, it can be kept balanced for a time and perhaps even gained on slightly. Some bands can inch forward and get a better grip than others.

The Octopus Project at The Mercury Lounge New York
The Octopus Projects' ten years together really shows. Toto Miranda is an awesome drummer and an extremely invested performer. In every picture I see, the band are all bone-dry except Toto, who looks like he swam to the gig. As a "sweater" myself, I find him to be an inspiring example. When he switches to the guitar, at times it looks as though the instrument could literally slip out of his fingers. Switching instruments, when everyone is so talented really adds to the show, allowing each performer to express something completely different, while still in the embrace of the same musical identity. Clearly popular in enough to fill up Mercury, Josh Lambert was appropriately deferential in his opening gas, paying homage to the New York fans. He and Figgs, despite short mention here are just perfectly in control the whole time. The band, as I said, is beyond tight, beyond good. The only complaint I could possibly make is that the theremin might have been brought out too quickly. Watching someone actually PLAY one (rather than just messing about) is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. And it is such a crowd-pleaser. Once you bring it out though, nobody wants you to put it away.

"Wet Gold" by The Octopus Project download mp3 (from Peekaboo Records)

Stream the Entire Record (from Peekaboo Records)

Buy The Octopus Project's records!!

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