Octopie Octopie EP, reviewed on The Phantom TollboothWhat Octopie excel at doing is writing catchy and interesting music that ventures into the progressive territory without losing accessibility.  The writing is superb, and this EP boasts a dynamic blend of timbres.

Octopie EP
Artist: Octopie
Label: independent
Time: 4 tracks / 26:46 minutes

There are a lot of bands that consider themselves a thermometer of modern music.  You know the type - the undiscovered yet idealistic lot with big dreams and a dollop of cynicism for the mainstream, but little to no experience in the world of record labels.  Reading Octopie’s bio could potentially have steered me away from their music in that regard, but thankfully I came across their EP on bandcamp before I happened upon their Facebook page.  They’ve yet to reach a place of recognition, but their music already speaks for itself.

Octopie are led by Tom Tamlander (vocals) and Axel Thesleff (keyboards), joined by Jere Lehtomaa (guitars), Lassi Nurminen (bass), and Visa Kivisaari (drums).  They’re an independent band from Finland who find a niche in the progressive rock category, though some might argue that they’re more or less just a rock band with progressive tendencies.  They released their debut album, Fresh from the Oven, in 2012 and have followed up that release with this self-titled EP as a precursor to another full-length release (hopefully sometime this year or next).  The band cite influences from 70’s prog – amongst them, Pink Floyd, Yes, and King Crimson, and you can certainly hear plenty of David Gilmour, Rick Wakeman, and Peter Sinfield in this EP.  Perhaps more than anything else, however, the band seems to channel Mirage-era Camel, and the more I listen to the EP, the more I hear echoes of Andy Latimer across the piece.

“Departed,” the first track on the EP, contains some beautiful guitar work – both acoustic and electric – and a lead flute presence that Latimer or Ian Anderson might admire.  This opening track contains a lot of Tull flavors, as a matter of fact, and a healthy dose of Gentle Giant as well.  There’s a powerful organ lead toward the 2:30 minute mark; some neat unison/harmonic passages shared by guitar, bass, and organ; and an ethereal breakdown toward the song’s conclusion that demonstrates another of the band’s best features: the ability not only to let the music breathe, but also to incorporate a number of musical ideas into one space.  “Departed” is folky, bluesy, and my favorite track on the EP.

“Moths Part 2” recalls “Moths Part 1,” a 10+ minute epic from the band’s debut album, and also includes a lyrical reference to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (“The marmalade skies and kaleidoscope eyes of you / They lured me to the shore to dance with the garrow moon”).  In that regard, there’s a nod to substance abuse as well as to the weary love-is-to-drugs-as-drugs-are-to-love comparison.  I appreciate the imagery of people lured to dangerous addictions as moths to the flame.  This is a polished, wailing track with expressive guitar solos over swirling synth pads and a strong grand piano presence at the conclusion.

“Empty Pages,” the longest track on the EP, feels as spacious as its name might suggest.  The first four minutes of the song are instrumental, accompanied by Tamlander’s meandering “oohs” and “yeahs,” broken by a sneaky little jam that crescendos to the song’s real content, before riding out to an abrupt conclusion on an ascending guitar lick and warbling organ.  Though perhaps not intentionally, this song seems to lean in an autobiographical direction, as the band continue to explore their own potential and seek to define their own “sonic footprint.”

The final track on the EP, “It’s Time,” also fits into that self-searching category – especially the concluding lyric: “Stillness of the lake, the skies so high / It's trembling my fate / It's not too late to realize these are our days.”  Carpe Diem sentiment, indeed, from a band with a lot of potential yet to be realized.  This funky jam sees the most prominent bass performance on the EP, and also boasts a driving lead riff, neat time changes, synth and organ solos, and tasteful harmonization between guitars and mellotron.

I hate to use the word “quirky” to describe a prog band because that’s a go-to adjective, and prog is supposed to bend your brain a little, but this EP certainly fits that description.  It pleases the ear and meets expectations, but also surprises.  There’s a ton of good stuff in here – tempered and intentional guitar work, well-written keyboard/synth passages, a vocal performance cut from the whimsical, sloppy-but-passionate cloth, and solid musicianship overall.  What Octopie excel at doing is writing catchy and interesting music that ventures into the progressive territory without losing accessibility.  I especially love the cohesion between each instrument: whether playing in unison, in harmony, or soloing, each musician fills a space without detracting from the rest.  Nothing feels like a gimmick or an afterthought.  The writing is superb, and this EP boasts a dynamic blend of timbres, crossing into the territories of blues, funk, art rock, and prog.

- Justin Carlton



{module Possibly Related Articles - Also search our Legacy Site}