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Album Review: Octave Minds ‘Octave Minds’

Breaking News: Octave Minds do Kavinsky better than Kavinsky!

I’m not referring to the whole of the brand new Octave Minds album with that sweeping generalisation – more specifically I’m referring to the track ‘Done Deal’. This is the kind of track we all hoped we’d hear on the Kavinsky album when it finally appeared, and frankly it’s better than anything on the re-animated producer’s ‘OutRun’. Also, unlike the rest of the Kavinsky album, this record isn’t a one trick pony… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For those that don’t know, Octave Minds is the collaboration between techno big-hitter (and trap not-so-big hitter) Boys Noize and Grammy winning pianist Chilly Gonzales. If you need an example of Gonzales’ prowess (and also his playfulness) look no further than this.

There aren’t many people who can perform for 27 hours straight, eating cereal and changing into their pyjamas midway through. But, I hear you ask, what if that set was just ridiculously long, and not technically proficient? A valid question, one that can be shot down mercilessly with a listen to this track here.

A re-work of the Erol Alkan and Boys Noize collaboration ‘Waves’, the track is a fantastic re-imagining of a harsh and often inaccessible piece of electronica – intricate and delicate but simultaneously driving and ambitious. No mean feat, that.

At this point, for the sake of balance I should probably expound the virtues of Alex Ridha, but I think pretty much everyone who likes to dance has come across Boys Noize at some point. The man played a significant role in shaping a genre and has collaborated with everyone from Mr Oizo to Snoop Dog/Lion/whatever. His discography includes a couple of stinkers (see Trap disaster ‘Go Hard’), but there’s no denying he’s an innovator, and a major player.

So, that’s everyone’s credentials firmly established. But what about the record?!

Well, it gets 5 stars. Out of 5. And that’s the very top end of 5, not a piddly 4.6 or something.

The low point of the album is probably ‘Tap Dance’ featuring Chance The Rapper, but it’s still a very good track. The criticism in this instance is that the addition of a vocal interrupts the flow of what would have been a very listenable instrumental album.

Standout tracks are the aforementioned ‘Done Deal’, the super-funky ‘Together’ and the driving, big-hitting ‘Anthem’. That, however, is if we’re thinking in terms of single tracks. Where this album really shines is as a continuous piece. The more atmospheric tracks complement the more energetic – there’s no danger of listening fatigue here. The overall flow of the album is well managed and, surprisingly for a record in this era, the dynamic range is noticeable; audio is often delicate, at other times pounding. Obvious thought has been given to the intro track as an opener, outro track as a closer, and the overall layout.

Clear care has been taken with the production of every track, with the electronic elements sitting beautifully behind the piano toplines, which are never swamped despite their complexity. Gonzales’ influence is apparent in the musicality of the pieces, every track being technically and creatively accomplished, while Ridha seems to have worked on adding just the right amount of low end thump and atmospheric shimmer. The result is an album that transcends the work of both artists – the grail in terms of collaboration. It’s rare that I’ve been as awestruck on a first listen to an album, and several listens later it’s just as good. I’d highly recommend you get your hands on this and hear it for yourself.

HBF Rating: 5/5

Pre-order NOW:
iTunes: smarturl.it/octavemindsitunes
CD/LP: octaveminds.com

  • JVH

    Very big fan of what I’ve heard from the album so far. I have to say though, I disagree with you naming Go Hard a “trap disaster”. I loved all songs on that LP, a bit different than what we’re used (i’d see it’s near hardstyle) to but executed very well. If I were to name a disappointment it would be the rap collaborations like the one with Snoop Dogg. No depth whatsoever to be found there.