Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #73 Octopus Project - Hello, Avalanche
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
#73 The Octopus Project - Hello, Avalanche
There is an island floating up in the sky somewhere, where everybody and everything is endlessly euphoric, and the anthem of this mystical place is The Octopus Project's "Hello, Avalanche." Yep, most of the time we talk about tension in music, about incisive or heartbreaking things – we're not going to dive into that dark and serious pit today.
Hello, Avalanche is a relentlessly buoyant ride, so chipper as to be unsinkable. But don't think for a moment that this is a one-note album. The whole thing plays like a night stroll around an exotic pavilion, and it triggers the shifts in mood that a peaceful solitude might – here pensive, there energetic, and here again a sheer awe of the tremendous beauty of small things. Indeed, this is an intricate and strangely natural album – though it flashes synthesizers, glitch pops and even a fair amount of 8-bit influence, the clatter of drums and twangy guitars aggrandize the songs in a naturalistic way. It all coalesces in a sort of driving, uplifting energy that is impressive in its intensity but more impressive in the way it sustains that intensity long past the point the human attention span should become cynical.
It's no secret that this particular reviewer is a sucker for the instrumental stuff – if you're going to be a lyricist, I think, you'd better avoid tiresome clichés, and most people simply don't – but even instrumental music has its own predictable aspects. It is an outright cliché for instrumental music, in any genre, to launch skyward, nosedive, to surge and retract with alternating bursts of energy and non-energy so suddenly that the changes trigger a sort of aural whiplash; it's all the more surprising when bands subvert these clichés, and that's exactly what's happening on Avalanche. Yes, they participate in these ups and downs, but it is not some token nod to the constraints of semi-electronic instrumentalism. The difference, I think, is that The Octopus Project treats the downs with the same tenderness and dedication as the ups, and when they come we're grateful for the opportunity to get a deep breath in edgewise. Then it's another furious surge; another glorious attempt to expand the feeling of "happiness" beyond a singular, simplistic definition. See, we can be upbeat in all sorts of ways, and Avalanche covers those bases. It never gets down, and it never gets old; it's no surprise that every time I play this album, it takes months to get out of my head.