The octopus is an intelligent creature with some amazing abilities. It can squeeze its boneless body through tight spaces. It can crawl along the bottom of the ocean floor or suddenly switch on its built-in jet pack. It can change color rapidly in order to blend in with its surroundings or just because it’s in a weird mood.
Austin oddballs the Octopus Project are similarly slippery, strong, smart, adaptable, and fascinating. The five-piece has been playing since 1999 and has by now established a signature sound that, nonetheless, leaves a lot of room for experimenting. It’s dominated by strange electronic sounds — synths, theremin, samples, drum machines, video-game bleeps and bloops — but also makes room for the occasional guitar, drums, or bass, though only rarely for vocals. Despite the band’s penchant for experimenting, the songs tend to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, with some kind of repeated phrase that functions like the chorus in a pop song. There’s almost always an instrumental hook you can sing along with.
That said, Hexadecagon, the band’s most recent full-length release (from 2010) found the band at its most avant-garde. The record was borne out of an ambitious project in which the band played through a custom-built eight-channel sound system, accompanied by multiple screens of experimental film, and often sounded like the most challenging work by minimalist composer Steve Reich.
The Octopus Project is currently working on a new record to be released early next year. In the meantime, the band has been touring both as a headliner and as an opener for acts as diverse as Passion Pit, Trail of Dead, and Man or Astroman? Like I said, the octopus is an adaptable creature.
THE OCTOPUS PROJECT: Soda Bar, Wednesday, November 7, 8:30 p.m. 619-255-7224. $10.