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Car Alarms and Crickets

(Up; US: 19 Sep 2000)

The 30-second introduction to Car Alarms and Crickets might have you fooled. Inside this barrage of samples, manipulated and spliced into something industrially eerie, lies something impulsively thrown together with no regard for traditional song structure. What comes after that may appear to have the same qualities: loose elements layered upon each other like brushstrokes in an abstract painting. But what makes the bulk of the album different from the intro is that the brushstrokes aren’t on a plain white canvas. These songs have an underlying organization. Octant is painting over portraits and landscapes.

Octant uses an odd combination of traditional analog instruments, even a banjo at times, along with homemade instruments and random samplers. The minds behind the machines are Tassany Zimmerman and Matt Steinke. Steinke has designed these unique machines (including a robotic drum set) to respond to light and other stimulation. It’s difficult to tell where real life musicianship ends and programmed automation replaces it. What you get is improv by means of machine. It feels mechanical and alive at the same time.

It should be mentioned that Octant does not make instrumental music. Female and male vocals make an appearance in the jumbled mix, but appear more like instruments than actual voices.

There are so many things going on in this album. The portions that sound familiar, but might just be out of reach to comprehend. It’s difficult to absorb, but an absolute pleasure to get lost in.

In addition to the introduction, the sans structure, 20-minute closer resembles something more like an environmental field recording in a cartoon than a song. You hear those car alarms and crickets. The song then lulls to silence in the middle before resurrecting itself as a barely there hum.

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