Exclaim!

The Octopus Project

Electric Owl, Vancouver, BC, November 13

The Octopus Project
Photo: Caily DiPuma
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Experimental pop quartet the Octopus Project looked the part of an early '60s Joe Meek band. The three male members all wore white button-down shirts with skinny black ties and dress pants, while Yvonne Lambert wore a flirty, Betsey Johnson-esque olive and purple floral-print sweetheart dress, her hair in a perfect bob with a flip. As they took the stage, Yvonne's husband Josh Lambert proudly stated they were from Austin (a place so nice he said it twice), as he thanked the shockingly modest crowd for coming and beckoned them closer to the stage.

Like Meek's groundbreaking projects, the Octopus Project employ a mix of electronics and go-for-broke rock, though their style leans more towards post-rock forms than the perfect three-minute pop song. Yet there was a level of casual theatricality in their presentation, from their classic look and engaged stage presence to their chameleon abilities. There's no true leader of this band. Movement on the stage was nearly constant, during and between songs. All four members exchanged instruments throughout the set and rarely sang. This made the distinction of a front-person moot, forging the group as a complete unit worth more than the sum of its parts.

Though Yvonne didn't take a turn on drums, she moved between bass, guitar and sampler like most everyone else, but she was most bewitching behind a Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin. Her arms cocked near the volume and pitch antennas, the fingers on her right hand crooked and toying with the air around the pitch to add vibrato to the feminine-sounding oscillator tone. She was a vision of Clara Rockmore if only Rockmore had rocked more. The band's Ryan Figg was particularly animated when on guitar as well, while Toto Miranda bludgeoned the kit into submission.

There was a highly improvisatory feel to their set, with some efforts to transition between material ending rather abruptly while others hit the ethereal sweet spot. The element of risk involved was part of the thrill of seeing them do their thing. This group were unassumingly high energy, letting loose while maintaining focus on their collective effort, incorporate the occasional noise explosion into their paisley psych sound.

Josh unleashed a string of thank-you's before the last song of their main set, hammering home how genuine their enthusiasm was. Returning to the stage, coyly asking if the crowd wanted hear another song, the group came back for the encore to perform "Porno Disaster," which Yvonne claimed was her mom's favourite song. The rather sinister Jamaican bounce of the track, first recorded for 2002's Identification Parade, was a suitably swanky way to bring the evening to a close.
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