Mustache. Check. Basic, classic male haircut. Check. Laptop. Got it. A faded, washed out picture of yourself with a cutesy animal or sitting next to an attractive person who does their very best to be fashionably unattractive. It goes without saying. You probably already know what I am talking about, but since this cultural drain won’t stop repeating itself, then maybe we should keep the choir of disdain going until we too are mocked and ridiculed.
The epicenter of this thing, this abomination that I will not name, is of course in New York. To be more specific, it’s in Brooklyn - a place where I once had a very late breakfast in a packed diner with overpriced eggs and toast. I vividly remember writing “does anyone work in Brookyln?” on the paper tablecloth that came complete with crayons. Some would say that this denotes the artistry at the heart of today’s urban youth culture. Others would argue it represents America’s increasing attachment to prolonged adolescence. No matter how you slice it, there’s something worth talking about in Brooklyn these days.
Octo Octa, a one dude musician of mustachioed brilliance, is obviously worth talking about. According to the head of his label, Octo Octa is responsible for one of the best songs ever released on 100% Silk, the very same Los Angeles-based record label that specializes in electronic music. Considering that the head of 100% Silk is Amanda Brown of LA Vampires, then these words of praise weigh more than the typical corporate blurb.
That said, Octo Octa (whose real name is Michael Bouldry-Morrison) is probably suffering from too much too soon. His first LP, which is entitled Between Two Selves, has garnered good reviews in such places as Pitchfork and Allmusic, with many other reviewers equally lauding the early effort of Morrison. Call me the minority, but Between Two Selves isn’t entirely convincing.
Sure, Between Two Selves has all the requisite techno and house components that cover an adequate genre baseline. Also true is the fact that Octo Octa knows a thing or two about quality production and has an eye for the importance of aesthetics. (On a sort of related note: is it just me or does the album cover of Between Two Selves look like John Mellencamp groping a female mannequin’s severed torso?) Basically, all the bottom end stuff seems to be in order, and yet Between Two Selves lacks a distinct flavoring, a unique aroma. Maybe that dumb old bumper sticker is right is saying that “Drum Machines Have No Soul.” Between Two Selves could certainly do with a little more soul (and less syncopation) and much more in the way of diversity.
As it stand today, Between Two Selves is your typical New York house release. Certain songs work well (“Who Will I Become” and “His Kiss”) whilst others fall flat on their face (“Work Me”). Also, adding to this binary contrast is one song that is incredibly disappointing. “Bad Blood,” a panting, sizzling, and spacey track, has absolutely nothing to do with fellow Brooklynite Neil Sedaka’s 1975 classic, and that my friends is the apex of tragedy.
This egregious offense aside, Between Two Selves is not two-sided compositionally, and in fact much of the record blends together. Typically, the songs on Between Two Selves start off soft, usually with an isolated sound or downloaded instrument, then proceed through a building beat that is accompanied by a repetitive voice sample. This, as I am sure you know, is par for the course for most house music. Still, listening to “Come Closer,” what with its seemingly endless repeats of “I want you,” might induce listeners to grind their teeth uncontrollably.
Fortunately, Between Two Selves isn’t entirely painful, and it ends on a high note. “Fear,” is perhaps the best song on the album, and its rain-strewn opening matches perfectly with its deep, somewhat dark music. Octo Octa at times hints at a more dirty ambiance, but never fully gives in to this direction on his latest release. It’s a shame, for Octo Octa might be better served if he forwent trying be trendy and instead aimed for transcendence. Maybe getting out of Brooklyn would be a good start.
1. Who I Will Become
2. Bad Blood
3. Please Don't Leave
4. Come Closer
5. His Kiss
6. Work Me