Released this month via San Francisco’s Honey Soundsystem, Octo Octa’s second album, titled Where Are We Going?, begins in a sunlit daze. Like blinking awake from a too-real dream, there’s a sense of confusion and wonder to the LP’s opening seconds. This nervous energy flutters throughout “Where Are We Going? Pt. 1”, but is offset by shimmering keys and soothing percussion, reflecting a duality of emotions. “On Your Lips” is a straight dive into the deep, where Octo Octa showcases her ability in creating powerfully resonant house music. Transporting you to a small, dark basement, surrounded by familiar faces, the track washes you in its warm embrace. Jovial and sentimental, much of the album feels like a night out with close friends, with moments of contemplation in between. On “No More Pain”, the artist reflects on her younger self, highlighted by a warped Mariah Carey sample, before seeming to arrive at a place of acceptance and newfound energy. The remainder of the album is more confident and exploratory, progressing with more unusual rhythms and vocal samples. “Preparation Rituals” is an eclectic collage, with hints of sci-fi amidst classic house signifiers, while “Adrift” finds Octo Octa in a new territory of sound, taking house further into its depths and shaping it into something all her own.
Last year music guy Gage wowed us with the astonishing Mercury EP on Crazylegs, which covered “all bases between sonic discord and nightmare clubbing”. He’s back this year with 2017 STAY PARO which, true to its title, fosters chilling feelings of dreadful unease across its eight tracks. Opening with the cacophonous “TBT/Flashback”, the record spreads its wings over manic club vibes in tracks like “Deps”, which modulates a simple vocal refrain into brash frequencies, and the monstrous “Kaya”, a stomping cut that trades in industrial clamour. Single “Flash Pattern” is a blinding flash of trance arpeggios, while “bix” is torn between gated synths and haunting melodies. The centrepiece of the release is “wait, Wat”, which relates a tale of bouncer violence and police brutality over a steady-building track that could otherwise be a euphoric anthem – a fascinating juxtaposition that leaves a sick feeling in the stomach. I can only imagine how that would work in the dance; Either way there’ll be tears on the floor. Not quite an album, not quite an EP, it leaves such an impression that anything beyond its thirty-minute runtime could become an endurance test. That’s not to say it’s hard work – 2017 STAY PARO is just as eye-opening and thought-provoking as it is aurally impressive.
After crushing releases from Jikuroux and waterhouse, DECISIONS serves up another excellent debut – this time from Frankfurt-based producer Avbvrn. Borne of an unusual process, Self/Similarity is a sludgy, cinematic affair, with only a few rays of light peeking through its sonic slabs of brutalist concrete. It sees Avbvrn reworking and reprocessing busted fragments of their own originals into nightmarish refractions. This method recalls the iterative process of grime and other edit-heavy styles, where tracks are constantly chopped and cut into fresh recitals. Meditating on iteration and reflexivity, Self/Similarity brings process to the forefront, highlighting the multi-layered, shifting nature of the self in the contemporary digital age. The EP is cloaked in thorny artefacts and sonic haze and through it all lies an alluring debut from a producer we’ll be sure to keep an eye on.
Words by Taylor Trostle, Aidan Hanratty and Tobias Shine.