Essential New Music: The Octopus Project’s “Memory Mirror”

Since its 1999 formation, the Octopus Project has evolved from raw, 8-bit thrift-store electronic experimentalists to more sophisticated 8-bit avant-garde new-wave provocateurs, dabbling in mainstream genre mashups without sacrificing artistic integrity.  This  aesthetic  marked the Austin quartet’s fifth album, 2013’s Fever Forms, but it’s fully bloomed on Memory Mirror, beginning with minute-long Vampire Weekend/ Extra Golden stinger “Prism Riot,” continuing with the new-wave video-game swagger of “Brounce,” and exploding with prog-laced indie-rock grandeur on “Wrong Gong.” Bygone eras drift through the album’s 13 tracks like latent dream images; “Understanding Fruit” hints at Devo channeling INXS, “Mendoza” careens and pops like a lost Soul Coughing demo, and “Pedro Wong” imagines the dour soundtrack to a séance where the B-52s and New Order conjure the spirit of Ian Curtis. The Octopus Project’s sonic expansion could be partially attributed to Dave Fridmann’s hand in mixing and the recent addition of ex-Okkervil River guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo, but it feels like the band has been building toward Memory Mirror for quite some time. Its arrival is both welcomed and expected.

—Brian Baker