You might think the use of the theremin would be a mark of distinction, but plenty of bands have employed the sci-fi sound machine. Led Zeppelin built a bridge out of it for “Whole Lotta Love,” the Pixies knitted “Velouria” with it, and for Phish it was a segue out of live versions of “Makisupa Policeman.” All in all, pretty much just one-off stuff. Not for the Octopus Project, though—Hello, Avalanche, the zippy third album from the Austin electronic rockers, swirls with theremin from beginning to end.
What Yvonne Lambert sometimes conjures from the eerie-sounding, hands-free device is the closest thing the instrumental foursome has to words. On the lovely “Snow Tip Cap Mountain,” she goads it into whispering sweet nothings to a shy glockenspiel. On the sepia-toned “I Saw the Bright Shinies,” it may as well be recounting an out-of-body experience. Meanwhile, on “Truck” and “Black Blizzard/Red Umbrella,” Lambert weaves delightful synth melodies into her cohorts’ guitars-and-drums clatter. This album-wide theme of opposites attracting—Lambert’s electro mini-symphonies versus the rest of the band’s power rock—pays dividends on everything except “Mmaj,” which sounds (and reads) like really bad techno.
One of the Octopus Project’s other albums is a collaboration with avant-gardists Black Moth Super Rainbow called The House of Apples and Eyeballs. It’s a clever idea in theory—extremists trying to outdo one another—but the end result sounds at times like Amateur Night at the Acid Tests. Hello, Avalanche is way more accessible.
The Octopus Project play Highline Ballroom October 18 with Islands, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Enon, and Yo Majesty, highlineballroom.com